Bullet-proof glass in every window.
Armed guards monitoring X-ray machines at the sole entrance.
Snipers on the rooftop keeping watch over the playground.
Is this the future of elementary schools in New Jersey and the nation?
It’s hard to imagine everything school officials would have to do to make children completely safe, after the horrific slaughter Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
There is one thing that this nation must do: Congress must pass and the president must sign laws putting much greater controls on guns, preferably to include an Australia-style firearms buy back.
Information about the senseless murder of 20 first-graders and six staff members at the school is still incomplete, with new details seeming to contradict some early reports.
What is known is that a 20-year old killed his mother at their home, then took three of her guns, drove her car to the school, broke a window to get in and proceeded to kill 26 innocents, most of them age 6 or 7.
Others describe the shooter as bright, a loner and possibly developmentally delayed. His mother seemed to like guns, owning several weapons. She taught him to shoot. And he apparently learned well, using one of her firearms to kill her, according to reports.
The local medical examiner said each of the seven school victims on whom he did autopsies had been shot between three and 11 times. Each.
Police still have not disclosed a motive, if they have ascertained one.
Regardless of what drove him, it is clear that had the perpetrator not been able to get his hands on reportedly three, or possibly four, guns so easily, many if not all of the little ones would still be alive. Waiting for Santa, eating cookies, kissing their parents good night. Their principal and teachers, who tried to protect them—reportedly one gave her life shielding her charges—would still be guiding them in their ABCs, and addition and that poem about Columbus sailing in 1492.
Guns do kill people. And they kill children.
Everyone was shocked and every politician who’s anyone released a statement of sadness.
"We are all crushed by the news of today's horrifying massacre in Newtown,” read the statement from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), GOP leader of the upper house. “I invite everyone to lift their hearts in prayer for the victims and their families and to unite around the hope that there will soon come a day when parents no longer fear this kind of violence in our nation again.”
McConnell is unlikely to take any action to help take that fear away.
On Sept. 21, 2007, he addressed an NRA conference in Washington, D.C., saying, “And yet today, as you know, some tend to try to cast some doubt over the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, even doubt about the meaning of what they had to say. Anti-gun activists continue to try and whittle away Second Amendment rights. They ask us to imagine what a better country this would be if we would only let them have their way. But we don't have to imagine. Few countries protect the right to bear arms as well as we do.”
That is precisely the problem. A 2003 report by UCLA researchers found the firearm homicide rate in the United States to be 19.5 times higher than in other high-income countries.
This was the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than a week. Less than a week. It came less than six months after the murder of a dozen at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
Various news sites have listed anywhere between a dozen and 16 shootings with multiple victims in the U.S. so far this year. In New Jersey, a man shot two co-workers at a Pathmark in Old Bridge in August. In 2009, 36 were killed in three separate shooting sprees. Two years earlier, almost that many—32—were killed at Virginia Tech. In 1999, two Columbine High School students killed 13.
Mass shootings are just one part of the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two-thirds of all homicides, or 11,493, in 2009 were from firearms. Roughly half of all suicides are by gun, and 83 percent of gun-related deaths in the home are the result of a suicide, often by someone who did not own the gun.
Firearms are a major cause of death and pain in this country. And the United States must act to stop as much of that as possible.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), said, “We have to bring gun violence under control.”
President Obama, visibly moved by the tragedy, said Friday, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday issued a strong rebuke of the lack of action from Washington.
"We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns … Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership—not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response.”
If the senseless shooting of 20 innocent young children can’t make Washington act, nothing will.
And more people, more children, will die.