THIS will be the time. That is always the hope amid the sorrow. The latest mass shooting will be the one that moves our leaders to finally begin a serious discussion of how to prevent senseless gun violence.
Unfortunately, our public officials continued to bring up the rear in this vital debate in the immediate aftermath of the killings of 20 children and eight adults Friday at a Connecticut elementary school and nearby by a heavily armed young man. President Obama's spokesman said it was a day to grieve and not to talk policy, and Obama himself vaguely urged the country to "come together and take meaningful action." Politicians in California and the Los Angeles area tweeted out "thoughts and prayers" but few mentioned guns.
And so this editorial board finds itself writing, sadly, the same thing we did after the Aurora, Colo., mass shooting, thinking the same thing we did after Columbine and Binghamton and Virginia Tech and Clackamas Town Center and Gabby Giffords.
It is time. No more excuses. No more political cowardice. Start the conversation in the halls of power that American families are having. Talk about what should be done on firearm policy to balance the Second Amendment with public safety.
There's always a reason not to, and it's never a good reason.
Think back to the killing of 12 people and wounding of 58 others in July in a Denver-area movie theater by a disturbed man armed with an assault rifle, shotgun and handguns, who bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition legally over the Internet.
Feinstein was right, we're sorry to say: The only brief talk about gun control in the presidential race came in response to a question in the second debate, and candidates here made little mention of the issue, perhaps because it was just too hot to touch when votes were on the line.
Nobody should think this would be an easy debate, or that the answers will be obvious. This page supported a perfectly reasonable state Senate bill last summer to close the so-called "bullet-button" loophole that violates the spirit of California's assault-weapon ban. The bill died in a Sacramento committee, and gun-control opponents, who raised fear the bill would have broader implications, congratulated themselves on a successful lobbying effort.
Based on reports coming in as this editorial was being written Friday, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., will be the second most deadly such incident in U.S. history, behind only the killings of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. The New York Times reported that of the nation's 12 deadliest gun attacks, six have occurred in the past six years.
This has been said elsewhere but deserves repeating: If these mass killings were being carried out by foreign terrorists, then elected officials would be moving heaven and earth - and Constitutional protections - to head off further crimes. Yet they're afraid to do the political heavy lifting, to risk the anger of pro- and anti-gun voters on the right and left, necessary to limit the ability of crazed individuals to acquire deadly weapons.
The point is that the villains in the bloody murder spree of the past decade are not organized terrorists; an organized plot can be found out and headed off. These are individuals who snap and are limited in their opportunity to commit horrible crimes only by the difficulty of acquiring firearms.
Difficulty? How does a nation make it more difficult for unhinged people to arm themselves without infringing on the right of the law-abiding to use guns for recreation and self-protection?
This is a topic from which our leaders cannot turn away. If it can't be debated seriously in Congress and the White House now, with the schoolchildren murdered Friday fresh in our leaders' memories, then when?
It is a time to grieve. And to talk policy.