“It’s time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way.
“We need action.”
That was Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat and avid hunter, speaking Dec. 17 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
If that wasn’t clear enough, here’s what Joe Scarborough, the show’s host, had to say about the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown:
“From this day forward, nothing can ever be the same again. We’ve said this before: after Columbine, after Arizona, after Aurora, after so many other numbing hours of murder and massacre. But let this be our true landmark: Let Newtown be the hour after which, in the words of the New Testament, we did all we could do to make all things new. Politicians can no longer be allowed to defend the status quo. They must instead be forced to defend our children.”
Scarborough, a Republican who represented Florida’s panhandle from 1995 to 2001 in the House of Representatives, continued, saying, “Though entrenched special interests are going to try to muddy the cause in the coming days, the cause of this sickening mass shooting, like the others, is no longer a mystery to common-sense Americans. And blessedly, there are more common sense Americans than there are special interests, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
“I am a conservative Republican who received the NRA’s highest ratings over four terms in Congress. I saw this debate over guns as a powerful symbolic struggle between individual rights and gun control. … (But) We must give no more ground. … I choose life and I choose change … and for the sake of our children, we must do what’s right.”
Both Manchin and Scarborough, while he was still in Congress, received “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association for their gun control records.
On the Dec. 17 broadcast, Manchin even admitted he had just recently returned from a hunting trip with his family. But, he said, nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of one’s children.
“Every child should have a safe place in their life,” Manchin said. In the past, that safe haven might have been a child’s school, but “now that’s been taken away,” he said.
There are no words of consolation that can ease the pain undoubtedly felt by the families of those affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook. There is nothing that can bring those 20 children and six Sandy Hook staff members back.
And sadly, there likely is nothing we can do to ensure that innocent children never again perish in a random act of violence such as this one.
This is what we can do: We can take the issue of gun violence seriously by enacting stricter background checks and requirements for the sale of weapons and munitions, banning assault rifles, banning high-capacity magazines and banishing the fear of the gun lobby.
Rep. John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat, said he was sorry for his silence on the issue of gun violence.
“I have been largely silent on the issue of gun violence over the past six years and I am now as sorry for that as I am for what happened to the families who lost so much in this most recent, but sadly not isolated, tragedy,” Yarmuth said in a statement. “The National Rifle Association has spent untold millions of dollars instilling fear in our citizens and our politicians. … I believe it is more rational to fear guns far more than the illusory political power of the NRA.”
But we should not stop there.
Speaking Dec. 16 at a prayer vigil in Newtown, President Barack Obama said of the victims, “They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school; in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.”
And it’s true. It could’ve been any state or city or town. It could’ve been a movie theater or a military base, a shopping mall or just outside the Empire State Building.
Incomprehensibly, it was a school, in a quiet New England town.
We might never know Adam Lanza’s motives for doing what he did. We may never know whether he gave any indication of his plans to anyone in his life. But if we are to go by previous tragedies such as this one, there were signs, however subtle.
We are our brother’s and our sister’s keepers and it’s as important as ever to embrace a shared responsibility for the well-being of our family, friends, colleagues and those closest to us.
If we’re able to do that, then 20 beautiful first-graders and the heroic teachers and staff who cared for them did not die in vain.