Newtown's heart is missing following tragic shooting

A child reacts to police and fireman staged nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School. Photo: Adrees Latif / Reuters

Dawn has yet to break here but Newtown is waking up this morning with its heart missing. There are tales here of terrible loss, of heroism and of deep frustration.

Janet Vollmer is a teacher who huddled her 5 year-olds into a corner of the classroom and read them a Christmas story while gun shots rang out. She never lost her composure.

Minutes after the attack yesterday morning, dozens of doctors, surgeons and specialists gathered at the hospital's emergency room to stand by for the expected wave of little patients. None arrived.

That's how brutal and ruthless this killer was. He shot his defenceless victims at point blank range and they had no chance of survival.

President Obama urged Americans to hold their children a little tighter last night and I'm sure millions of parents did just that.

This has shocked America to its core. Even those used to random attacks cannot begin to fathom the nightmare of a deranged, armed killer running amok in a primary school.

Some details we know: the name of the killer, the death toll, the fact that many teachers acted with remarkable bravery to protect their little students.

A picture of the suspected gunman Adam Lanza. Credit: NBC News

But at the same time many aspects of the story are still unclear.

  • Was Adam Lanza's mother really a teacher at the elementary school? There are still conflicting reports on this.
  • How could he take his rage out on a classroom of five-year-olds? Even in the warped, incomprehensible world of psychopaths we can sometimes detect motives. Not here, not now.

There is also the decades-old political question that emerges every time there is a massacre: Will it spur politicians to deal with the greatest and most dangerous American addiction of all, a love of guns that has produced 300 million weapons?

President Obama has displayed no leadership on this. He spoke movingly about the human toll of gun crime when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was gravely wounded.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot during an appearance in Tuscon, Arizona. Credit: Reuters

And then nothing. Silence.

Guns laws did not feature at all in the Presidential election campaign. It was the elephant in the room. The debate was too politically explosive. So Obama avoided it.

Now that the President has won his second term he will never face the voters ever again. Will it liberate him to propose the re-imposition of a ban on assault weapons? If he did, would Republicans in Congress support it?

These are the questions being asked in Washington this weekend.

Here in Newtown, Connecticut, the anguished question is simpler and more heart-wrenching.


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