Something must be done, they felt, to end the gun massacres in this country.
Surely, they hoped, our politicians must feel the same way. Even on Capitol Hill, where a great many people are skilled in the ways of doing very little, surely even they must feel the need for action.
But the gun lobby and its minions were ready. They, after all, have had a great deal of practice. And the social media quickly filled with the same message: too soon, too soon. Show respect for the dead. Do nothing now. Don’t “politicize” tragedy.
Four adults are killed in Benghazi, and the right wing politicizes it endlessly. But 20 small children are slaughtered in Connecticut, and the nation is told to do nothing.
I have written about gun madness and the slaughter of the innocent for decades. The NRA playbook holds no mysteries: Demand delay. Sow confusion. Spread around money for the next election.
The NRA is too powerful, the politicians wail. We cannot defeat it.
The NRA is not that powerful. It can be defeated. It spent millions to defeat Barack Obama, and it failed.
But laws do nothing, the gun lobby says. The problem is moral decay!
And yes, Mike Huckabee went on Fox News after the massacre in Newtown, Conn. — not to “politicize,” mind you, because that would be wrong — but to speak the truth as revealed to him.
“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools,” he said. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”
So we must wait to act until America becomes as pious as Mike Huckabee? Oh, my, that might take a very long time.
Do nothing, do nothing! It’s not guns, it’s mental illness!
But other countries have mental illness. And yet they have much lower rates of murder and much less carnage than we do. Could that be because they keep guns away from the mentally ill?
Do nothing, do nothing. It’s society. Society is rotten, the police cannot be everywhere, and so we must arm ourselves against the evil ones.
And so a woman in a safe neighborhood in Connecticut collects a small arsenal in her house to protect herself from the evil outside. Her son, some say, seemed disturbed, emotionally ill, perhaps. And yet she kept semiautomatic pistols and an assault-style rifle around the house with hundreds of rounds of ammunition?
It would be terrible enough if just she had paid the price for this. But 20 small children and six other adults paid the price, too.
Do nothing? Do nothing? Can we really be so foolish, so cowed, so helpless?
Don’t tell me gun control doesn’t work. We have never tried real gun control in this country. Don’t tell me the Supreme Court has forbidden gun control. It has forbidden no such thing.
And don’t tell me to do nothing. Don’t tell me to keep silent while the guns bark in our classrooms and children fall shrieking to their deaths and semiautomatic rifles can be purchased at Wal-Mart amid the pots and pans and teddy bears.
“I think we could be at a tipping point,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on “Face the Nation” Sunday and then listed three goals: “reinstate the assault weapons ban, limit the size of clips to maybe no more than 10 bullets per clip, and the third would be to make it harder for mentally unstable people to get guns.”
We spent billions of dollars and sacrificed thousands of lives for a war over imaginary weapons of mass destruction abroad. Surely now we can fight real weapons of destruction at home.
Sunday night, speaking from Newtown, our president said: “We are not doing enough. And we will have to change. We can’t tolerate this any more. These tragedies must end.”
But words are not enough. And he knows that.
“In the coming weeks, I will use whatever powers this office holds,” the president said, “in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
The president has political capital. He must spend it.
The president knows what needs to be done. He must do it.
On Sunday, he told the story of a teacher barricaded in a classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School telling the children, “Wait for the good guys; they’re coming.”
We are waiting, Mr. President. We are waiting.
Roger Simon is editor of Politico.