Emotions may be too raw to write in depth on Friday's shooting deaths of 20 children and 6 adults at the Sandy Hook Primary School in Connecticut. But I think there are a few things that need to be said.
First, a note on the response of the American media who interviewed surviving children as young as six, using the words "shootings" and "killings". Talking to traumatised kids who probably have no coherent idea what happened, the broadcasters sanitised the event while they exploited it with their less evocative language. Why was this not described as murder, or properly, mass murder?
During two months in America this fall with my wife, I was not troubled by driving the old West’s lonely roads; however, on the occasions we visited shopping malls or cinemas, the thought was in the back of my mind that it was in these places that outrages occurred.
Of course, Europe is not immune from mass killing. In 1996, at a school in Dunblane, Scotland, 16 children and one adult were massacred by a gunman. However, that episode finally brought responsibility, with new laws effectively banning private ownership of handguns.
I have written before about American gun laws. I believe the Second Amendment of the Constitution is incorrectly interpreted and that the Supreme Court is either too scared or too hidebound by their personal desires to tell the American people they are not entitled to bear arms --- they are not the "militia" that was envisaged in teh 18th century.
But this is not a legal issue --- it is a political and cultural one. At the end of the day, the politicians are woefully weak, and campaign dollars win the debate, the National Rifle Association and other gun lobbies too strong for their grip on legislators to be broken.
I doubt that the newly re-elected President Obama will take on the gun lobby. He has other battles that he will choose to fight with Congress. And I am sickened --- yes, after thought, that is not too strong a word --- by an American society where those who try to avert the next mass murder are overwhelmed by the forces of money.
Almost 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln wrote:
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed.
A year later, Lincoln was a victim of the supposed right to bear arms. Time will tell how prescient he was about the battle between wealth and the safety of others.