‘Can you tell us what happened today in school?” the Fox anchor asked eight-year-old Sofia Lebinski of Newtown, Conn.
In a calm voice, the little girl offered up a terrible answer to the most routine of questions. She heard shots. The teacher told her and classmates to get into the corner. Police officers knocked at the door and walked the class out of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“How did you feel?” the news anchor asked. “I felt scared and everyone was shaking,” the little girl said.
You can imagine those children scared, shaking, and wondering how a massacre of innocents could happen in what should be the most peaceful and safe of all places — a school.
But there is no place in America we can take for granted as peaceful and safe. Not a shopping mall. Not a movie theater, temple, or high school. Not a street in midtown Manhattan or a college campus.
President Obama wiped tears away as he gave a statement about the tragedy. “We have to take meaningful action,” he said. What is “meaningful action?” White House spokesman Jay Carney said it was too soon to say if that meant gun control.
Gun control. In America, those two words are dirtier than the most vile curse words. Just two weeks ago, Bob Costas was crucified for blaming the nation’s gun culture for the violence that unfolded when Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Blecher shot and killed his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins.
How dare Costas talk about the violence off the field instead of the violence on it? How dare he interject the politics of gun control into NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”?
At what point is it considered appropriate to talk about the country’s gun culture? How about when 20 little boys and girls and six adults — including the shooter — are killed at an elementary school?
Those who want to talk about it are bullied off the stage. The right to own firearms, enshrined in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, apparently trumps little children and their right to make it out of kindergarten.
The pro-gun lobby argues vociferously that guns don’t kill people, people do. A determined killer will find a way to find a weapon. Banning assault weapons won’t stop people from using handguns. Banning handguns won’t stop people from using knives. And wouldn’t it be better if the people gunned down at the movie theater or mall had guns for protection against a nut who happened to have a gun?
Now, will they argue that the principal, teachers, and students of Sandy Hook Elementary School would be alive if only they had guns to take down the shooter? If so, Second Amendment enthusiasts are beyond redemption.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook horror, Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, would do what parents across America will do — hug our children, tell them we love them, and remind them how deeply we love each other.
If that’s the best we can do for Sofia Lebinski and the children of America, it’s not nearly enough.Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.