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Editorial: ‘Our hearts are broken’

In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, a police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks) MANDATORY CREDIT: NEWTOWN BEE, SHANNON HICKS

In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, a police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks) MANDATORY CREDIT: NEWTOWN BEE, SHANNON HICKS

And with those words, and with his tears, President Obama expressed the spasm of grief that swept across America Friday. In hurried words, tweets and headlines, the horror: Another school shooting. Children killed. Handguns and a semi-automatic rifle, purchased legally, early reports aid.

Roads around the Sandy Hook Elementary School in rural Connecticut crowded with emergency vehicles. Parents running toward the school.

Suffer the little children. And their parents.

And, yes, a whole country.

What can we make of it? More importantly, what will we do about it?

This morning, 28 people who should have awoken with expectations of holiday celebrations ahead are gone — 20 of them children in Sandy Hook’s early primary grades.

In Newtown, residents of a close-knit community gathered at memorials Friday night, standing together to share the immeasurable blows a tragedy like this delivers.

From Washington, the president, a man of utmost composure, went on television to address the shootings, the second-deadliest in our nation’s history after the 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech that left 32 people dead as well as the man responsible.

The president sought to articulate our shared grief. “I know there is not a parent in America who does not feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” he said.

The young victims of shooter Adam Lanza had their whole lives ahead of them until 9:30 Friday morning, the president said. “Birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

It would have been wrong, we feel, for President Obama to speak beyond the fact of these lost lives — the children, and the adults who had dedicated their lives to them, such as Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was among the six adults to die inside Sandy Hook.

It would have been ill-timed for the president to question why Lanza, a 20-year-old native of Newtown who authorities say killed himself inside the school after his hour of terror, was able to assemble his arsenal — Sig Sauer and Glock handguns, and a Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine, the kind of weapon used by members of the armed forces in foreign wars.

While the president called for “meaningful action” to stop shootings such as this, he did not go further than that, other than to say that on this, as on so many other things, politicians should set aside their differences for the common good.

We hope he does seek meaningful action in the months ahead, and hope legislation able to address our domestic arms race can be presented in his second term.

The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, didn’t hesitate to call for just that Friday, and he is right.

After many such shootings, educators have worked hard to secure schools. Early coverage suggests Sandy Hook took student safety seriously and locked its doors each morning at 9:30. That wasn’t early enough to keep the gunman out. And given that his mother taught at Sandy Hook, it is possible no security system could have prevented this.

Here in the Gazette newsroom, we hear readers say from time to time that they find the news just too sad. They avoid stories that sadden them — and when the horror is so profound, as it was Friday, it is an understandable response of self-protection.

But this is a horror from which we must not look away. Consider the faces of the children on our front page today, the ones being led to safety from the school, their hands linked, their hearts pounding.

Let’s fight the stale rhetoric that opposes reasonable restrictions on gun ownership of America, particularly weapons able to kill so many, so fast. What can we do together to save lives? At Sandy Hook, 20 children whose lives were just beginning are gone.

“Meaningful action,” said the president.

If that sounds politic, it is. This weekend, expect the subject of gun violence in America to dominate the news. We have a lot of problems in this country, but none with as much regular and unnecessary bloodshed as this one.

I have yet to figure out why ordinary people need to possess automatic weapons. For this, perhaps, nothing else.

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