CNHI News Service


December 21, 2012

COLUMN: Reflections on the tragedy at Sandy Hook

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It was ironic to read and hear hundreds of political leaders, talking heads and citizen activists demanding that we not “politicize” the horrific murders in Newtown, Conn., all while rushing to politicize it themselves with demands that their values be imposed on everybody else in the country.

After listening to this frenzy of self-righteousness for more than a week, I have no demands. But I think a few observations and questions are in order:

President Obama, in his moving speech at a memorial service for the victims, invoked God a half-dozen times. He quoted Scripture, from the Christian Bible. He said that God had “called (the victims) home” to heaven.

And perhaps for the first time since 9/11 (outside of inaugural or State of the Union speeches that close with a rote, “and may God bless the United States of America”), this did not prompt screams of outrage or threats of lawsuits from groups like the ACLU. No complaints that the president was violating the “wall of separation” between church and state. No protests that some in the audience may have been Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists or of other beliefs and may have felt “uncomfortable” at the overtly Christian rhetoric.

It was a welcome silence.

No, I don’t want to live in a theocracy. I don’t want a state church. But I do want expressions of religious faith to be welcome in the public square.

Any God worth believing in - any God who would consider “blessing” the United States of America - has got to be welcome at more than memorial services following mass murder.


As is always the case at times like this, the National Rifle Association is demonized not just for its relentless defense of the Second Amendment - the right to bear arms - but also for its unwillingness to make even small compromises.

Most Americans support bans on assault weapons and magazine clips of more than 10 rounds. Most support more thorough background checks before someone is allowed to purchase a gun. If the NRA is concerned about safety, why doesn’t it go along with those modest restrictions? They wouldn’t eliminate the right to bear arms.

Well, why not ask the same thing of the powerful National Abortion Rights Action League when it comes to reasonable restrictions on abortion? Why can’t they get behind things like a waiting period, parental notification for minors, a ban on partial-birth abortions?

Because, NARAL says, the proposed restrictions are just the beginning, and the real endgame is to ban all abortions. Therefore, any restrictions, no matter how reasonable they sound, are really a war on women and must be stopped.

Why blame the NRA for similar thinking? After an assault weapons ban fails to eliminate massacres, as surely will be the case, there will be calls for further restrictions, with the endgame to disarm American citizens.

The NRA probably figures that no matter how much they give, it will not be enough. I suspect they’re right.

It also bears mentioning that the NRA was the only group with an interest at stake in this tragedy to remain silent for a week. Wish that everyone had followed its example.


It is interesting to hear gun control advocates demanding that the president and Congress take action now, while the horror of these murders is still fresh in everyone’s minds.

That has some emotional appeal, but every psychologist will tell you that the heat of emotion is the worst time to make major life-changing (in this case, nation-changing) decisions.

Remember after 9/11, when liberals complained that government was overreacting to the threat of terrorism - that it was undermining freedoms?

They had a valid point. But more than 3,000 people died in that attack.  Why do they demand the undermining of rights now, after fewer than 30 die at the hands of a madman?


A number of liberal columnists have complained that “gun nuts” make it impossible to have a serious “discussion” about gun control.

The problem is, those columnists don’t want to have a discussion. They want Second Amendment advocates to shut up.

One recently wrote that those who believe the kids in the Sandy Hook school would have been safer if the principal and/or some teachers had been armed are “beyond redemption.”

Really? Headed for hell? Is that supposed to be a good way to open a discussion?

A sober, serious discussion would have to include what one of the police officials said this past week - that as soon as the killer saw the first responders, carrying guns, he stopped shooting others and shot himself instead.

He expressed deep regret that they couldn’t have arrived sooner and saved some of those young, innocent lives. Left unsaid was that if one or two staffers at the school had a gun and showed it to the killer, they might have stopped him much sooner.


Finally, it is interesting that while there has been some discussion of better treatment and monitoring of mental illness, the sickness of a culture that glorifies violence and the saturation of media coverage of events like this, but the vast majority of the focus is on guns.

If we just got rid of the guns, it would be better, we think.

It is worth considering that those other issues involve some personal responsibility, self-control and moral judgment. It’s much easier to blame a thing for our problems and think if we get rid of those “bad” things, we’ll be OK.

Since Obama quoted the Bible, maybe it’s OK to add another one here: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9.

Unless we get rid of evil along with the guns, we’re in for a rude surprise.


Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at

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