The feeling is too familiar now. It hits like a shock and then twists into emotions of horror, anger, sadness and fear until it settles in the mind as a sickening numbness that we don’t know what to do with.
The place this time is Uvalde, Texas. The deaths include 19 children and two adults.
Schoolchildren. Teachers. Executed on their own campus. Murdered in the place where they should be safe, where they should be growing and becoming.
As a nation, we lack the capacity — morally, intellectually, politically — to seriously grapple with the evil sickness that has set in, manifested in the incomprehensible nihilism of a murderer who would destroy the lives of the most innocent among us. But the rage spreads through all of us as we spin in the powerless frustration that nothing is done, that nothing will be done and that we will simply await the next slaughter.
Politically and legally, this country refuses to accept or act upon the obvious connection between the easy availability of powerful weapons designed to kill humans and the way they get into the hands of young men, even boys, with histories of disturbing behavior.
Our political conscience as a nation is so stunted now that we cannot even enforce laws that are on the books to stop these shootings. We cannot seriously discuss, much less legislate, common-sense laws that could get broad agreement that might stop the next shooter. We cannot even agree that we should use the resources of the federal government to study gun violence.
We believe in the right to bear arms. But every human right is balanced with human responsibility. No right is unlimited. Many leading Republicans have made more permissive gun access a political cause while doing precious little or actively undermining efforts to enforce existing regulation.
It is time to re-enact the restrictions in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that were so foolishly permitted to expire. It is time to limit high-capacity magazines. It is time to ensure that background checks and red flag laws have the most serious and uniform enforcement.
And it is time to open broad debate about other measures.
Saying this law or that law would not have prevented what happened in Uvalde is not enough. We must demand from our elected officials that they study, propose and enact legislation that has an effect. If you are in elected office, this is your job. It is urgent — a moral imperative.
There will be calls for addressing mental illness. Those are valid. But if one thing is clear from mass shooting after mass shooting, it is that killers generally acted with careful planning and clear intent. They understood the depravity and evil of their actions. They did these things because they knew they were terrible and because they had the ready means to do them.
After so much blood of so many children has been spent, after so many mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers have been left with lives of agony and mourning and loss, after all of this horror and pain, are we still unable to act?