At the very least, we owe our children the truth.
We need to tell them that, in this country, allowing gun merchants to rack up record profits is more important than preserving young lives.
That’s the message the horror in Uvalde, Texas, drives home.
There, an 18-year-old gunman decked out in body armor and armed with an assault rifle murdered at least 19 children and two teachers before police killed him.
When he got to the school, he opened fire in a fourth-grade classroom. Children in the school who survived hid in closets and corners. Some broke windows and crawled over the broken glass to run away and take refuge in a nearby funeral home.
The killing spree went on for nearly 45 minutes.
For three-quarters of an hour, small children huddled in terror.
The lucky ones will live with that period of horror for the rest of their lives.
The unlucky ones will live on only in the memories of those who loved them.
Three different good guys with guns — to use the National Rifle Association’s favorite fantasy response — attempted to return fire. One was an armed security guard at the school — another NRA “solution,” because having small children feel they live in a police state is a small price to pay to keep gun merchants prosperous.
The three good guys with guns couldn’t end the rampage. The body armor the NRA insists must be made available to every potential mass shooter made their fire ineffective.
Only the police were able to put a stop to the killing.
For now, that is.
One of the saddest things about tragedies such as this one is that we Americans know it’s only a matter of days, hours or even minutes before the next such horror occurs.
It was just a few days before this young gunman armed with a military-style weapon and protected by body armor opened fire in Texas that another young gunman similarly armed and attired unleashed hell near Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people.
Where will the next such holocaust occur in America?
The gunman in Uvalde bought the assault rifle right after his 18th birthday, which was just a little more than a week before he opened fire.
It’s possible, even likely, that — thanks to the lax gun laws the NRA insists upon — the gunman didn’t break a single law before he began shooting.
In the days ahead, there will be many politicians and many gun flacks who will tell you they, like all decent people, are horrified by the carnage in Texas.
Don’t believe them.
If they cared, they would be trying to do something about it.
But they haven’t — and they won’t.
Some are so caught up in their fantasy world — a landscape in which down is up and wrong is right — that they can’t acknowledge the devastation their mistaken approaches produce, even when that devastation smacks them in the face, again and again and again.
Others are so self-interested and so callous that the grief that stalks our beloved country matters less, far less, than collecting cash from the gun lobby and holding onto power.
This isn’t about the Constitution.
It’s about commerce.
For the first 215 years of the Second Amendment’s history, there was genuine debate about whether that part of the Constitution established a collective rather than an individual right — meaning that it was tied to service in the militia.
Only with the Heller decision in the 21st century did the U.S. Supreme Court decide, 5-4, that it was an individual right. And the author of that majority opinion, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, said the right was not absolute and that guns could be regulated.
That ruling radicalized and emboldened the gun lobby. Firearms manufacturers began aggressively making and marketing assault weapons because the profit margin was highest on them.
Since then, the sales of assault rifles have climbed by 300%.
But it’s not fair just to blame the NRA and gun merchants.
They continue to have the power they do because we allow them to — because we Americans often place a higher value on tax cuts than we do on keeping kids alive.
We vote, again and again, for candidates who prove, again and again and again, that they care more about gun profits than they do about children’s lives.
May God have mercy on our souls.