Unimaginable pain... unimaginable horror: Reporters and commentators have struggled for words to describe last week's tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. And yet if it's unimaginable, it's only because we still won't face gun violence head on.
These killings are not rare, not in this country. A blog on The Nation's website notes 16 multiple shootings in the US this year alone. Sixteen. In a temple, in a shopping mall, at a soccer tournament, in a coffee shop, a hospital, a nightclub, a spa, a movie theater, a funeral home, several schools....
This is what guns do.
On Monday, a New York Times photo showed a cluster of mourners at the burial service for Jack Pinto. He was only 6. And after the service, his grieving parents would leave him behind, in the Newtown Village Cemetery.
This is what guns do.
Some want to focus on mental illness, which has been involved in some of this country's mass killings. And certainly we must do much more in the area of mental health, funding research and treatment. But only a small percentage of people with mental illness become violent. And many killers are not mentally ill. To talk about mental illness in this context does great harm to those who are struggling with that difficult illness. And it diverts our attention from the real cause of the carnage.
Mental illness did not kill the 20 little children and six adults in Sandy Hook school. A gun did.
And let us not forget: While the national focus right now is on the Newtown tragedy, single murders are even more common. Rochester media carry reports of shootings almost daily. If we focus only on the mass carnage, we say that these other victims matter less. They do not. These victims, too, are important. These families, too, grieve.
There are calls for "meaningful action," for stronger controls. But pushing for background checks, gun registration, purchase limits: that's nibbling around the edges. Because people are human beings.
We cannot protect people from a mother who lets a disturbed son learn how to shoot. We cannot protect people from an angry husband who has too much to drink, or a neighbor who mistakes a well-meaning friend for an intruder, or a former employee who snaps, temporarily, under emotional stress. Or teenagers who decide to rob a convenience store.
We can try to ensure that they don't have access to guns.
Watching these tragedies unfold, I admit: I cannot wrap my mind around the attraction so many Americans have for guns. In his post-Newtown massacre column urging gun control, the Times' Nicholas Kristof wrote about growing up learning to shoot. "Shooting," he said, "is fun."
My mind lurches, from descriptions of a gunman mowing down terrified 6-year-olds – a parent's soul screams at the thought of those children's last moments – to Kristof's words: Shooting is fun.
The people of this nation must find another way to have fun. And we must use rational measures to protect ourselves, relying on police officers rather than vigilante justice.
Guns are made for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill. We do not need controls. We need guns banned from civilian use. All guns.
Rochester lost an important community leader this past weekend with the death of Karen Grella.
Karen was a member of the Rochester school board from 1980 to 1996, serving part of that time as president. She was a bright, tireless, creative public servant, as intensely dedicated to the children of Rochester as anyone I've known. And she was more knowledgeable about education and this district's challenges than most people I know.
She pushed hard for high standards in city schools, and her legacy includes the creation of both the School of the Arts and the International Baccalaureate program at Wilson.
Our thoughts are with Karen's husband George (who, as our longtime film critic, is an important part of the City family) and her sons, daughters, and grandchildren.