TRYING to make sense of this senseless act. Trying to explain things that cannot be explained. These were words frequently heard on Sunday from Newtown, Conn. When 20 children, aged 6 and 7, are gunned down by a disturbed man, it is impossible for emotionally stable people to comprehend what caused the horror.
Inevitably, gun control advocates called for legislative action, seeing Newtown as the “tipping point” because of the ages of the victims. The New York Times, arguably the most influential newspaper in America, ran the Page 1 headline: PUPILS WERE SHOT MULTIPLE TIMES WITH A SEMIAUTOMATIC, OFFICIALS SAY. Next to it was a large black box with the names of the victims in reverse type. The emotional effect was powerful, and so was the subliminal message: Semiautomatics kill schoolchildren and should be banned.
We found ourselves agreeing with Joseph Lieberman, the independent senator from Connecticut now in his last month in office, when he called on Fox News Sunday for a panel to try to answer the overriding question: “How could this have happened, and is there anything we can do to prevent it from happening again?” Lieberman, who is in fact an advocate of gun control, nonetheless sensibly suggested an inquiry far broader than a gun debate.
He mentioned the holes in America's mental health system, which allow deranged people like Adam Lanza to float through life without anyone knowing the threat they pose. He pointed to the violence of America's entertainment culture, in which video games and movies glorify random gunplay and turn shooters into heroes. Why else do so many of these psychopaths wear black clothing or military fatigues?
And yes, if gun control laws could have prevented the Newtown massacre, Americans should at least weigh the pros and cons. There are strong signs that gun control would not have prevented it — chiefly the fact that it did not prevent it. The killer was blocked by Connecticut's strict gun laws when he attempted to purchase a rifle the week before the attack.