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Adrian Walker

Newtown tragedy was unthinkable, preventable

Last Monday morning, a 16 year-old student strolled into the Jeremiah E. Burke High School with an unloaded Ruger handgun and several rounds of ammunition in his backpack.

He was arrested after school officials stumbled on the gun while searching him for a stolen cellphone. ­Police and school officials expressed relief that no one was harmed. The Globe ran a short story inside the paper. A gun in a school is not a huge shock anymore.

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At least, not until tragedy strikes, as it did with horrific force Friday. By now, you’ve heard the news from Newtown, Conn.: 26 dead, including 20 children, in our nation’s latest stomach-churning tragedy.

America was shocked Friday, but the real problem is that we are not shocked enough.

By now the sites of tragedies practically roll off our tongues. Columbine. ­Aurora. Tucson. And now tiny Newtown can be added to this roster of unthinkable, preventable tragedy.

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Yes, I said preventable. Every single one of these might have been prevented if getting hold of a gun in this country was as difficult as, say, getting a driver’s ­license.

Don’t talk to me about the right to bear arms. There is no right to open fire on defense­less children or a congresswoman meeting her constituents or a theater full of moviegoers. Don’t bother trying to tell me that the Founding Fathers intended access to guns as a “right” with almost no limits. That insipid argument is an insult to history, even if a majority of our highest court seems persuaded by it.

And don’t tell me that it’s time to start a discussion on gun control. It is not time to start a discussion; it’s time to end it. It is time in the name of everything sensible to get serious about getting guns off the streets of this country.

Let’s not waste time pointing fingers either. The National Rifle Association and its supplicants get a lot of blame for blocking sensible gun control legislation, and they deserve every bit of it. But their opponents deserve blame, too, for being all too quick to fold on this issue, year ­after year, decade after decade. We have somehow come to accept senseless violence as part of the fabric of our society.

Think that isn’t true? We have just concluded one of the longest and most expen­sive presidential campaigns in our history — also one of the least substantive — and how many times did you hear anyone, in either party, talk about the scourge of guns in this country? Almost never, because heaven forbid that anyone who wants to get elected take a real stand against the source of so much senseless bloodshed.

President Obama sounded a hopeful tone in his moving speech Friday, saying it is time to get beyond politics to prevent more tragedies. But calling for action isn’t the same as taking action.

The gun supporters have carried the day because they comprise a well-
organized, munificently financed, very effec­tive lobby. But you cannot tell me that anything like a majority of Americans supports the unfettered right to carry the kinds of guns that serve no purpose other than taking human life. They do not, and didn’t, even before this atrocity. This issue has been driven by the voices of too few for too long, abetted by gutless politicians.

Most of us believe that people deserve to be safe in their homes and on the streets, and every sane person believes children deserve to be safe in their classrooms.

Many people spoke Friday of praying for Newtown and of holding their children tight. Both of those acts are important. But let’s not leave it at that.

It is time for the majority to take on and win this debate, in the names of all the victims who ought to be alive, in the names of the children who went to school Friday but didn’t go home.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at walker@globe.com. ­Follow him on Twitter at Adrian_Walker.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this column misstated the location of a mass shooting in Arizona. It was in Tucson.

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