Editorial: What follows Newtown shootings?

ABC NEWS COURTESY PHOTO | A sign welcoming visitors to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Suddenly, all the hoopla about the upcoming special election to fill the North Fork’s vacant seat in the county Legislature seems a petty, meaningless distraction.

As interesting as an out-of-season political fight may be, it means absolutely nothing compared to the slaughter of innocents in a Connecticut school in a small town that has a pre-Revolutionary past, as does Southold, with a population not much bigger than Southold’s.

For many, the school shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech might as well have occurred on the other side of the globe. Nothing like that could ever take place in our little, safe corner of the world, right? The folly of such thinking became all too clear when the unthinkable took place in another seemingly little, safe community.

Gone in the blink of an eye was any false sense of security. If it happened there, it could happen here. The enormous — and as yet unanswered — question is why?

Much of the public dialogue since the shootings has centered on the weapons involved. That topic certainly dominates these pages this week.

Beyond the gun control debate, we’re left with trying to understand what would drive someone to perform such a heinous act. We’re led to believe the young man had mental issues. Many Americans do, but they don’t pick up an assault rifle and open fire on school staff and students as young as six. That question cannot go unanswered, just as the gun control issue cannot be placed back on the shelf until the next mass murder.

Even the National Rifle Association, the national symbol of legal gun ownership, recognizes this. In a statement on the Newtown shootings released Tuesday afternoon, NRA leaders said they’re prepared “to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Those “contributions” are to be identified during a Friday, Dec. 21, press conference.

We hope the NRA is serious this time, but let’s not kid ourselves, The sad reality is America is full of guns, and a constitutional amendment might do little to change that, particularly in the short term. Prohibition didn’t work, nor has the multitude of legislative efforts at drug control. Still, raising the Constitution in every gun ownership discussion is a smokescreen. Remember, the Constitution also permitted slave ownership — that is, until the people rose up to abolish it. Given the fearsome lethality of assault weapons, there’s no legitimate reason for any civilian to own one. To argue otherwise is akin to saying that since a pilot can legally purchase a Piper Cub, there should be no prohibition against acquiring a fully armed surplus Eastern Bloc MIG fighter.

The only acceptable response to the Newtown madness is to put aside emotion and embrace logic and common sense.

Don’t affix blame, fix the problem.

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