Last week it happened again. Another school. Another disturbed young person. Another needless firearm legally purchased. Another good person dead as a result.
Last Tuesday, a 28 year-old former Spanish teacher named Shane Schumerth walked into the office of Dale Regan, the principal of the school where he had been recently fired, pulled out an AK-47 assault rifle and killed her before committing suicide.
A week earlier, T.J. Lane, a 17 year-old Ohio boy, took out his .22 semi-automatic pistol and killed three people and injured two more.
And the week before that, a third-grader grabs the family's legally bought .45 and sticks it in his backpack on the way to school. The result was a seriously injured nine year-old.
And then, of course, there was Columbine (15 dead) and Virginia Tech (32 dead). You can read the grizzly toll in this archive provided by the New York Times.
And that's just school shootings. Gabby Giffords' promising career was put to an end, as were the lives of six innocent people by a madman with a gun.
Even laptop computers aren't safe. A father in North Carolina recently plugged his daughter's Dell with nine rounds from his handgun because she "disrespected" him in some Facebook postings.
The U.S. had 9,369 murders committed with firearms in 2002. Only South Africa, Columbia and Thailand outrank us, and the next three countries on the list are the Philippines, Mexico, and Slovakia.
Great company to be in. Where does the rest of the developed and sane world fall? Well, Germany had 269, Spain had 97, Australia 59, Japan 47, the U.K. had 14, Ireland 12, you get the picture.
And yet the silence from American politicians has been deafening. Even the modest proposals suggested in the wake of the Giffords massacre (to ban the high-volume ammunition clips used by the gunman, to prod states to submit names of the mentally disturbed to the federal watch list for gun sales, and to plug the notorious gun-show loophole that allows anyone to buy high-powered military weapons without a background check) have died quiet deaths.
The problem is that the National Rifle Association's radical agenda of the last few decades has been spectacularly successful. By opposing even the smallest and most responsible of gun control measures, they have cowed mainstream politicians (even most liberals) from even so much as using the words "gun" and "control" in the same sentence.
The answer is not more silence and even more modest proposals. The answer is not to make nice with the radicals in the NRA. The answer, for those of us who want to end the gun carnage, is to make bold proposals that pull the debate back in our direction.
My bold proposal is to simply ban the manufacture, sale and possession of all handguns and automatic weapons everywhere in America. There is just no reason for the existence of these weapons of mass destruction. Their only real purpose is to kill people, and target practice is hardly a good enough reason to have all of this destructive deadly force around. They should be banned.
Now, I am a gun owner, but I don't view my guns as the bulwark of my freedom; I see them as pieces of recreational equipment that I store next to my golf clubs. My guns are no more important to my freedom than my nine iron, and we'd be in sorry shape if our liberty depended on my accuracy with either.
My proposal probably should apply to my own semi-automatic deer-hunting rifle, but that's okay. My gunsmith tells me that the old 30.06 isn't long for this world anyway and I've wanted to replace it with a bolt action.
But isn't this kind of effective gun control a violation of the Second Amendment? Yes, based on some wrong-headed 5-4 rulings from an outrageously conservative U.S. Supreme Court, my proposal almost certainly runs afoul of the Second Amendment. But that doesn't point out what's wrong with the idea; it points out what's wrong with the Second Amendment. In my view the Second Amendment should be amended or repealed, and failing that, we can only hope that a more moderate court will restore some sanity to its interpretation some day.
Like most Americans, I've had enough of the senseless carnage and enough of weak-kneed politicians fearful of taking on the radical gun lobby. It's time we started to fight back and beat them at their own game, and that can only happen with strong proposals from our side of the debate.