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Our Obligation To 20 First-Graders: Get Guns Under Control

Jim Shea

7:29 PM EST, December 15, 2012

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First-graders are artworks taped to the refrigerator door, bouncing bodies on a crowded school bus, holiday cards that say Love You Mommy and Best Dad.

First-graders are bedtime stories, and Dora the Explorer, and silly songs, and runny noses, and kisses that melt your heart.

First-graders are innocent, trusting, funny, exasperating, delightful little bundles of boundless energy running around with flapping shoelaces they have yet learned to tie.

First-graders are not Christmas presents that will never be opened.

Until now.

It is too painful to think of the horror those 20 children experienced in their final moment in their once-cheery classroom.

And one can only imagine the anguish of parents as they rushed to the scene. The relief of spotting that little face. The desperation in frantically searching and not finding it.

As difficult as it is to think about the events of 12-14-12 — a date that will forever occupy a place on the calendar of infamy — think about them we must.

This has to be the last straw. This has to be the time when we rise up as a civilized society and say enough.

We need to eliminate automatic weapons, and we need to take it upon ourselves to do it. We can't wait for our elected leaders to lead the way. They have had their chance, and they have failed miserably on this issue.

ee cummings once observed: "A politician is an ass on which everyone has sat except a man."

No place is this observation more applicable than when it comes to guns.

Democrats and Republicans alike now cower in the shadow of such huge lobbying organizations as the NRA, a group that has long ceased to exist solely to serve sportsmen.

Why didn't President Barack Obama make gun control an issue during the election? Very simple. Because if he did he would have lost.

What can the average person do to combat the gun lobby?

Stop joining, stop sending them money, stop listening when they tell you the Constitution is under assault if we regulate 50- and 100-round ammunition clips.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. People with easy access to hand-held killing machines kill people.

On Saturday, my in-box already included an email from a group called Gun Owners of America and a statement from its president, a man named Larry Pratt, which read:

"Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun."

The insanity, the stupidity of this makes me want to scream. Teachers walking around in elementary schools with sidearms? What have we become?

Ask yourself: How many police officers, co-workers, spouses, friends, bystanders, inner-city residents just standing on the corner — and, yes, children — would be alive today if someone didn't have easy access to a gun?

We need to demand the people we elect to office pass legislation that makes it at least as hard to own a gun as it is to get a driver's license.

We need to support legislators who will pay more than lip service to gun control.

We need to make organizations such as the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence more powerful — through our support — than the gun-extremists groups.

We owe it to each other to do this. We owe it to all those who will lose their lives to the scourge of gun violence in the future. We owe it to the memory of 20 first-graders.

It is on us, all of us.

This is our time. This is our moment. This stops now.