To launch a national conversation about violence is not to politicize the sadness. Rather, it is to search for ways that communities can secure themselves, including through better gun laws and mental health options.
The first step that’s needed is a rational, civil debate about where lawmakers should draw the lines on guns. Americans from opposing points of view should come to the discussion willing to move beyond their talking points.
Those who favor restricting gun rights must realize their neighbors who buy and use guns have a constitutional right to do so and that most gun owners use them prudently. Nor will gun control laws stop every madman.
At the same time, those who oppose any gun restrictions should rethink what parts of their gun rights they would give up if that would help law enforcement get more rapid-fire, high-capacity weapons off the streets. If police make the case for sensible controls, would they not give up something for the larger good?
A spirit of compromise is needed so the nation can focus on how Newtown’s tragedy could have been prevented and how other communities can avoid their own.
The weaponry part of the discussion will stir up the most passion. But mental health issues are every bit as relevant, if not more so.
Perhaps this means more options for families to access mental health care. The Texas Legislature is returning next month, so lawmakers particularly should look into how schools can better reach families with troubled children. Perhaps what’s also needed is more education and help for the caregivers of afflicted youth. Their parents endure a lonely, agonizing hell.
We can’t create gun laws or mental health options that will solve every problem. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do more. As President Barack Obama rightly asked Sunday, “Can we honestly say that we are doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?”