Analysis: A Tragedy and Turning Point

By Gabe Pressman
|  Thursday, Dec 20, 2012  |  Updated 3:21 PM EDT
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Analysis: A Tragedy and Turning Point

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President Barack Obama, pictured here at an interfaith vigil for the shooting victims from Sandy Hook Elementary School, has vowed to use "whatever power his office holds" to safeguard the nation's children.

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For hundreds of millions of Americans -- and especially for the people of our area -- these have been harrowing days.
 
On Sunday night President Barack Obama choked up as he spoke of the 20 children mowed down in Adam Lanza's frenzied attack. The nation wept with him.  

    
On Wednesday, the president delivered on a promise to do something about the massacre in Newtown, Conn. He announced that Vice President Joseph Biden would lead an effort to come up with a program to prevent mass shootings in the future. He promised: "This time, the words need to lead to action."
 
In the last few days, the president's approach to grievous problems seems to have changed. He seems less the academic analyzing the evils that afflict us and more like a man trying to inspire and lead. It may well signal that the Obama of his second term will be the leader some supporters craved in his first term. 
 
The carnage left in Newtown certainly seems to have had lasting effects. The funerals, the anguish of parents, the makeshift memorials, the hurt of a nation have left a lasting imprint on all of us. Words of grief resonate in America.
 
As the little children have been buried one by one, we have had the president declare: "Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year is somehow the price of our freedom? No single law or set of laws can eliminate evil from the world. But that can't be an excuse for inaction."
 
Mayor Bloomberg has led the way in denouncing past inaction by our political leaders.
 
"It's unbelievable and it only happens in America and it happens again and again," he said on "Meet the Press." "We kill people in schools, we kill them in hospitals, we kill them in religious organizations, we kill them when they're young, we kill them they're old, and we've just got to stop this."
 
A bereaved mother cried out: "The sky is crying and the flags are at half-mast. It is a sad, sad day. And it's also your day, Noah, my little man."
 
The mayor urged the president to act, to back a ban on assault weapons, "to stand up and lead." That may be happening.    
 
The president also promised to make access to mental health care "as easy as access to guns."
 
The NRA has long been a leader of the pro-gun lobby. Some see signs that the NRA may be ready to modify its opposition to gun control. We'll know soon if that will happen. 
 
The roll call of gun violence in America and the tragedies in its wake cover communities form coast to coast, including Washington, D.C., and Virginia; Aurora, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., Wisconsin and Minnesota. 
 
In journalistic jargon there are stories that are called "one day wonders" or maybe two- or three-day wonders. The cynical editor believes the  public's attention span is short. People can only concentrate for a limited time, no matter how horrible the story may be. 
 
We can hope that this story may be different, that this may be a turning point in America's long romance with guns.
 
Our president perceives the national mood well. We are the only western democracy that has this awful problem. But we have a proud record of accomplishment in many fields and the American trait of compassion is appreciated in much of the world.
 
Let it be a turning point. Let this tragedy inspire us to act, and change. 

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