The information is still trickling out of the small town of Newtown, Conn.
One shooter, or maybe two, went into an elementary school and murdered eighteen children, or maybe twenty, and nine adults, or maybe ten. The shooter will likely fit the usual profile of a young white male with an axe to grind, a poor coping mechanism, or something that caused him to “snap” and take the lives of thirty innocents. And the focus will immediately shift to how the people in his life could have seen this coming, how the teachers and administration could have somehow done something to avoid this tragedy, and a million other absurd, insulting distractions.
Because of course, it’s too soon to talk about gun control, right?
Wrong. Now is the time to talk about gun control. Now is the time to hold our society’s collective feet to the fire and come up with some seriously, real solution to put a stop to the senseless violence. This isn’t the first school shooting our nation’s history – it’s not even the first this year. It is the fifth. There have been four other shootings in schools this year, four other people killed in what should be a safe place. There have been school shootings in the US since the 19th century.
At this very moment, President Obama is taking the stage to talk about this tragedy. He will say the usual things that he said after the shooting in Aurora, the things President Clinton said after Columbine, the things President Bush said after Virginia Tech. He will not say what needs to be said: this violence is not going to stop if we continue to stand by and do nothing. This is not going to be prevented with more guns, or “respectful” silence. This is not going to stop happening by defending the status quo or even just quietly letting it stand. We cannot continue to abide by this rhetoric that claims that there is “too soon” a time after preventable tragedies such as this. It’s always too soon – until a few months or a year later when once again it is too late.
Today is the time to talk about gun violence. It isn’t too soon for the Newtown victims, or the Columbine victims, or any of the other nearly 400 victims of school shootings in the last twenty years. For them, it is already too late, we are already too late. It is not enough to simply mourn them, to lay awake tonight thinking about their families, or to hug our own children a little tighter tonight. Nothing we do or say will ever be enough unless these children are the last to have their lives brutally cut short in what should be one of the safest places for a child.
Tonight as families in Connecticut grieve, the rest of us will murmur to our friends and families and colleagues, “It’s so terrible. I just can’t believe it.” But can’t we? Can’t we all believe that this happened, as shocking and horrible as it is? Because it has happened before, in American towns just like Newtown and American towns completely different from Newtown. It has happened before, and it will happen again. This tragedy is horrific, senseless, and for most of us incomprehensible, but the one thing it is not is unprecedented.
It is not disrespectful to the victims to talk about gun control today – it is disgraceful not to.