In the week that has passed since an armed madman burst into an elementary school, since the still-unfathomable violence that left 20 children and seven adults dead, a lot of voices are calling for some sanity at last when it comes to guns.
We are now talking about a ban on assault weapons like the one that expired in 2004 and about closing a ludicrous loophole that lets people buy weapons without required background checks. President Obama himself promises a push for gun control — along with serious discussion of other factors like access to mental health care and brutal, casual violence in America's pop culture.
If anything can come from what happened a week ago, exploring ways to prevent this kind of horrific scene from happening again is surely a start.
Then, there are other voices in the aftermath.
The National Rifle Association, that feared lobbying muscle that finds no pro-gun legislation too absurd and contends we have a God-given right to our guns in parks and at work and on our hips at the grocery, will break its silence about this latest tragedy today. In a brief news release, the NRA says its members are sons and daughters and mothers and fathers grieving like the rest of us and promises "to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
How positive, how enlightened, how moving it would be to see the NRA step up today and say: We believe in the Second Amendment and will continue to fight for the right of Americans to have guns.
But the sale of military-style assault weapons?
And the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips?
No, the NRA could say today, we won't stand in the way of a ban. Because that's not what responsible gun ownership is about.
What do you want to bet "meaningful contributions" will translate to pointing only at other factors undeniably at play — mental health care, the dulling onslaught of violence in movies and video games, the safety of our schools — without dealing with the availability of guns at the root of this and other American massacres?
Others — Ocala's own state Rep. Dennis Baxley among them — are with a straight face saying what we really need now is to turn our schools into armed camps where even teachers and principals can pack firepower, . Some states are already backing laws to make it happen. People are talking bulletproof backpacks.
Given the politics of our guns, maybe this is no surprise.
But the idea of more, not fewer, guns where they do not belong — in schools with children and teachers who are there to teach and not act as armed guards — is beyond unbelievable to me.
The debate here is about reasonable regulation on our right to bear arms, a right that despite what some people will tell you is not unfettered. Yes, guns kill people, which is why rules to keep them out of the hands of those who should not have them are not the evil in this.
Even with all this debate and talk of change spurred by unthinkable tragedy, will anything be different in the end? A year from now, will anything have changed?
Because the worst that can come after the worst already happened is this:
Nothing, and then more of the same.