Steps we must take to reduce the carnage

They are as relentless as the winter rains, as mind-numbing as the most powerful tranquilizer and as troubling as one’s darkest thought.

They pile upon our national psyche, crying out for a response, a solution, an end to the madness.

Mass murders have no advocacy group to defend them, no show of support from any rational mind. Yet the next mass murderer to strike somewhere in America lurks around the corner, a predatory beast among us, unfettered and random beyond belief.

And when the damage is done and the deaths mount up again, one thing is certain: The tears will flow, candlelight vigils will flicker in the evening sky, and then the citizens of this unusually violent country will return to daily routines where gun violence is someone else’s problem.

But wait. Does anyone in their right mind, accept this fait accompli? Didn’t we as a nation reach a tipping point last week as the rapid-fire shots rang out and the little lifeless bodies fell?

Nothing can be done to bring back the lives of the 20 children and six adults, snuffed out by a gun-toting madman in a Connecticut elementary school last Friday before he took his own life.

But something can be done to reduce – not eliminate, but reduce – the likelihood that this act from hell will repeat itself over and over again in the years to come.

President Barack Obama was right Sunday night in the bereaved town of Newtown, Conn., when he said: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

Gun control should – no, must – begin with a ban on assault weapons. They have no place in civilian life, in a democratic nation. These are military weapons, and should be illegal to privately purchase, possess and use.

Second, no guns for the mentally ill and felons. Time after time, the killers in these mass murders are found to be mentally deranged, people who can’t make rational decisions about their daily lives, let alone the use of guns. Make it harder for unstable people to arm themselves, period.

Since 1982, there have been 61 mass murders in the United States. And the 12 deadliest mass shootings have occurred since 2007. Typically, the killers had gotten their hands on the guns legally. There must be a rigorous screening process in place to make access to military-style assault weapons and other unconventional guns and rifles much more difficult than it is today.

The president should appoint a national commission to explore in detail the causes and potential remedies to mass murders in America. Such a commission could build on the societal outrage seething in the wake of last week’s tragedy. The commission could take a holistic look at the problem that goes beyond gun control, the plight of the mentally ill and the graphic violence of video games.

The citizens of this country just witnessed the second-deadliest mass shooting in American history. Arguably, it was the most horrific to date.

How many more needless deaths must we witness before we do more than just grieve and go on?. For the sake of the children – those lost and those in our midst – the time to address gun violence is now.