Guns don't kill people; people kill people. That's at least what we're told whenever attempts are made to control the availability of weapons in America.
Whether you believe guns or people kill people, the kill efficiency of such a person is increased dramatically when holding a gun that can fire 45 rounds per minute. Throw in a few high-capacity magazines, and a Bushmaster AR-15 can make short work of an elementary school.
To our horror, that is what we discovered Friday when Adam Lanza went on a rampage inside Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. In a matter of minutes, 20 children and six adults were dead. Each of the victims were shot multiple times with 5.56mm rounds, fired at close range from a weapon that ejected them at approximately 3,260 feet per second. The Bushmaster AR-15 is described as the civilian equivalent of what our military carry into battle.
The 6- and 7-year-old boys and girls had no chance. Nor did the adults attempting to protect their charges. The shooter didn't even need to use his Glock 10mm or Sig Sauer 9mm handguns, other than to kill himself. Lanza had multiple magazines for those guns as well. He even had a shotgun he left in the car. Even a deranged individual knew the shotgun would take too long to produce the carnage he apparently was after.
Sad as it was, it could have been worse. Lanza had enough ammunition on his person to slaughter every person in the school.
Shocked and grieving parents are beginning to bury their innocent children starting today. We strongly doubt whether any of them are comforted by the oft-uttered phrase: Guns don't kill people.
Many gun-owners -- and there are tens of millions of them in America -- have them to protect themselves. Nancy Lanza, mother of the Sandy Hook shooter, owned all the guns her son used. Many individuals such as she believe guns to be the best way to provide self-defense. She was shot at least four times in the head -- fatally -- with her own high-powered weapons before her own flesh and blood made his way to the school. Adam Lanza didn't have to pry the guns from her cold, dead fingers; he had access by virtue of living in the same house.
Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner, both 6 years old at the time of their random murders Friday morning, were not old enough yet to be taught about the U.S. Constitution. Nor of the many privileges and rights guaranteed U.S. citizens, including the right to bear arms. The two boys are the first of the victims to be buried.
Fellow classmates who won't ever be able to express their First Amendment rights about what the Second Amendment really means include: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler and Allison N. Wyatt. Adults no longer able to debate how not infringing upon one's right to keep and bear arms can at times lead to the infringement of another's right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, include Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung and staff members Rachel Davino, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto.
As of Monday, the website of the National Rifle Association had not been updated with an official comment regarding Friday's horrific events. If past tragedies are any indication, the NRA will double-down its efforts to prevent anybody from "working to further their gun control agenda."
What will it take? It might be easy to sit here in Hays, Kan., and say such a thing would never occur here. We would guess that's what they said in Newtown prior to Friday.
Similar sentiments likely used to be uttered in the temple in Oak Creek, Wis. And the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.; the shopping mall in Portland, Ore.; the hair salon in Seal Beach, Calif.; the political rally in Tucson, Ariz.; the campus of Virginia Tech University or Columbine High School.
There have been 31 school shootings in this country since Columbine in 1999. We have had at least 61 mass murders since 1982. Believe it or not, we're not even on an upward trend.
"There is no pattern, there is no increase," said criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston's Northeastern University who has studied mass shootings for decades.
That might be the case, yet it provides little comfort.
More guns can't be the answer. We already have some of the loosest gun laws in the world, and one of the highest rates of people killed by guns.
On the other hand, as President Barack Obama said during a prayer vigil Sunday in Newton: "No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society."
But are military-grade weapons necessary in the hands of civilians? Is the thrill of high-speed target shooting worth having high-capacity magazines on the market? Is there a better way to control legitimate uses of such guns so they don't fall into the hands of people who kill people? Can we look the parents of the slain Sandy Hook students in the eye and tell them that's the price of our freedom to own and bear arms? Would we have the same cavalier attitude if such a tragedy took place in our own community?
Ultimately, perhaps the NRA is correct with its messaging. If people are not bothered enough by these recurring events and won't do anything to control the availability of guns and ammo in this country -- then it is people who kill people.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry