For any human being, an event as shocking and poignant as the Dec. 14 shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is bound to evoke a range of reactions, from the visceral to the contemplative.
As a journalist working on deadline, I had no choice but to immediately go about deciding how to treat such an event in the Weekend edition of our newspaper, lump in my throat notwithstanding. Almost as bad was repeating the process days later, on Christmas, when four firefighters were shot the day before in an ambush — two fatally — in Webster, N.Y.
Which headline would you write, or photo would you choose, to lead our front page? Of all the Sandy Hook photographs available, none seemed appropriate. Each involved something unspeakably awful, from which any decent person averts one’s eyes. One can only imagine how the photographers working that day felt.
But to me, almost equally as disturbing as those shootings are the empty, emotionally charged debates that we’ve had in their aftermath.
I’ve never had a problem with anyone who owns firearms for hunting and self-defense. And as one of three brothers in a family of outdoorsmen, I see valid arguments for both handguns and semi-automatic rifles. Fishing guides, trappers, loggers and others who work in the forest run the risk of encountering a hungry animal, but such folks might prefer a revolver to lugging a long gun around all day. And since many a bear has survived the first shot from a high-powered rifle, semi-automatic weapons can be a matter of safety and not merely preference.
But of all the weapons my family uses for hunting, none would suffice for the sort of mass uninterrupted slaughter perpetrated by Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, whose Bushmaster XM-15 was built specifically for killing humans, not wild game. Any “outdoorsman” who requires a 30-round magazine is clearly neither a marksman nor a serious person.