In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Do we love our guns more than our kids?

 

fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com

MiamiHerald.com/columnists

There are no words for a tragedy this grim, this incomprehensible, one that strikes so close to home for every parent in America.

We are, as the president said wiping away tears, a broken-hearted nation.

Not since 9/11 have we collectively hurt like this.

How do we wrap our hearts, our minds, our souls around the random violence, the beautiful little lives taken by a madman armed with assault weapons? Twenty children, ages 5 to 10, gunned down to death in an elementary school — a storybook place if ever there was one in a storybook town in Connecticut.

Six adults, including the school’s principal and the psychologist of Sandy Hook Elementary School, shot dead, too, CNN reported. The shooter’s mother, a kindergarten teacher at the school, shot dead in her Newtown home.

In the small, quintessential American town of Newtown, the kind you see portrayed in Thomas Kinkade paintings on a Hallmark card, people knew each other, so much so that firefighters responding to the call of a gunman wildly shooting inside the K-4th-grade school cried their hearts out in recognition of the victims.

Poor, poor babies.

They could have been any of ours.

“I was just talking about Dev going into kindergarten — and now I’m scared, really scared, Mom,” one of my daughters tells me when I call her after hearing the news.

She and her husband recently moved to Connecticut.

I witnessed their meticulous search for “a safe place” to live and approved of their choice of a charming town strikingly similar to Newtown. On Friday, my 4-year-old grandson was at his school — also carefully chosen, as if enough thought, comparisons, and money could keep him from harm, but too close to the tragedy on this day for comfort.

“I just want to keep him home,” my daughter kept saying. “I don’t trust anybody.”

Poor, poor nation.

In a country that has everything — wealth, democracy, opportunity – we’ve lost the most precious thing of all: Peace.

What kind of society endures the gun violence we’ve experienced in the United States this year and the year before — wrath-induced, crazy, sinister gun fire — and does nothing?

How many more innocents have to die in the hands of a madman with a gun before we wake up, America?

Guns don’t kill people, the National Rifle Association says. People kill people.

Indeed.

People with readily accessible guns that shoot so fast and so furiously — combat weapons —– that few have a chance at stopping the massacres or escaping the killing fields.

Just recently:

A 22-year-old made his way with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle (stolen from a person he knew) through a mall crowded with holiday shoppers in Portland, Ore., randomly shooting into the crowd at the food court. He killed two adults and wounded a 15-year-old before killing himself.

A 24-year-old sprayed a crowded theater in Aurora, Colo., on opening night of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.

And now in Connecticut, as one witness reported, what sounded like some 100 rounds fired by a 20-year-old from several high-power weapons he took to the school.

No matter how you dress it up, it is people who can easily get access to guns — assault weapons apt for mass murder — who have robbed us forever of our peace.

The White House says this is not a day to talk about gun issues but a day of mourning.

But if our children are not safe in a kindergarten classroom, how do we protect them?

All of the dreams, the love, the hard work that went into each and every one of those children erased by this lunatic who is now dead by his own hand. He is no longer suffering, but for the families of these children, the devastation has just begun.

When if not now?

After all the bodies are buried and the parents return to their private grief? When this tragic day has been replaced in our collective memories by the next big thing?

When we return to the gun-control debate righteously clutching that Second Amendment?

Let this be enough.

Let us love our children more than our guns.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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