The slaugh­ter of more than two dozen chil­dren and adults at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary in New­town, Con­necti­cut is, with­out ques­tion, one of the most hor­rif­ic events we have gone through as a country.

No sur­prise, then, that it has become the chief top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion all over the coun­try.… in shops, offices, homes, and online.

At the White House, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma stopped by the James M. Brady Press Brief­ing Room (named for a sur­vivor of gun vio­lence) to speak to the White House press corps about the mas­sacre. Wip­ing away tears, the Pres­i­dent said, “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news I react not as a Pres­i­dent, but as any­body else would — as a parent.

“And that was espe­cial­ly true today. I know there’s not a par­ent in Amer­i­ca who doesn’t feel the same over­whelm­ing grief that I do.”

“Whether it’s an ele­men­tary school in New­town, or a shop­ping mall in Ore­gon, or a tem­ple in Wis­con­sin, or a movie the­ater in Auro­ra, or a street cor­ner in Chica­go — these neigh­bor­hoods are our neigh­bor­hoods, and these chil­dren are our chil­dren,” the Pres­i­dent added. “And we’re going to have to come togeth­er and take mean­ing­ful action to pre­vent more tragedies like this, regard­less of the politics.”

New York Michael Bloomberg, who co-chairs May­ors Against Ille­gal Guns with Boston May­or Thomas Meninio, released a state­ment call­ing on Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to do more than issue a call for “mean­ing­ful action”.

We’re going to run his state­ment in full, because it is the most appro­pri­ate response we have seen to this tragedy today. Here it is:

With all the car­nage from gun vio­lence in our coun­try, it’s still almost impos­si­ble to believe that a mass shoot­ing in a kinder­garten class could hap­pen. It has come to that. Not even kinder­garten­ers learn­ing their ABCs are safe.

We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Vir­ginia Tech. After Tuc­son and Auro­ra and Oak Creek. And now we are hear­ing it again.

For every day we wait, thir­ty-four more peo­ple are mur­dered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma right­ly sent his heart­felt con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies in New­town. But the coun­try needs him to send a bill to Con­gress to fix this prob­lem. Call­ing for ‘mean­ing­ful action’ is not enough. We need imme­di­ate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before.

What we have not seen is lead­er­ship – not from the White House and not from Con­gress. That must end today. This is a nation­al tragedy and it demands a nation­al response.

My deep­est sym­pa­thies are with the fam­i­lies of all those affect­ed, and my deter­mi­na­tion to stop this mad­ness is stronger than ever.

Mil­lions of peo­ple have react­ed to the attacks through social media, par­tic­u­lar­ly Twit­ter, Tum­blr, and Face­book, but also and oth­er networks.

Many peo­ple have chan­neled their frus­tra­tion, anger, and sad­ness towards the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion (NRA), one of the coun­try’s most pow­er­ful lob­bies and an uncom­pro­mis­ing voice against sen­si­ble restric­tions on firearms.

So far, the NRA has not offi­cial­ly com­ment­ed on the mas­sacre in New­town, except to say, “No com­ment”. The NRA’s lat­est tweet ref­er­ences a hol­i­day pro­mo­tion and its web­site is devoid of any ref­er­ences to Newtown.

Last week, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre sug­gest­ed to reporters that Kasan­dra Perkins — the slain girl­friend of Kansas City Chiefs line­backer Jovan Belch­er — would still be alive if she had been car­ry­ing a firearm.

“The one thing miss­ing in that equa­tion is that woman own­ing a gun so she could have saved her life from that mur­der­er,” he told USAToday.

What’s LaPierre going to say about the tragedy in New­town? That those teach­ers and kinder­gart­ners could have saved their lives from “that mur­der­er”, if only they were armed? (Uncon­firmed reports, by the way, have sug­gest­ed the gun­man, said to be twen­ty-year old Adam Lan­za, was wear­ing body armor).

In real­i­ty, guns make us less safe. A fam­i­ly that keeps guns at home is iron­i­cal­ly more like­ly to expe­ri­ence a homi­cide or sui­cide. Accord­ing to a study pub­lished in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine:

Liv­ing in a home where there are guns increas­es the risk of homi­cide by 40% to 170% and the risk of sui­cide by 90% to 460%.

Young peo­ple who com­mit sui­cide with a gun usu­al­ly use a weapon kept at home, and among women in shel­ters for vic­tims of domes­tic vio­lence, two thirds of those who come from homes with guns have had those guns used against them.

The NRA’s answer to gun vio­lence is to advo­cate for more gun own­er­ship. It is now esti­mat­ed that the ratio of guns to peo­ple in Amer­i­ca is approach­ing one to one… in oth­er words, there are around nine­ty or more guns for every one hun­dred peo­ple. But, while the num­ber of homi­cides has been decreas­ing, far too many peo­ple are still killed with guns, and dead­ly mas­sacres like today’s have become more common.

Sen­si­ble restric­tions on firearms are sore­ly need­ed in this coun­try. Requir­ing back­ground checks for all gun sales (no excep­tions) is not an idea that it is at odds with the Sec­ond Amend­ment. Even staunch defend­ers of the Sec­ond Amend­ment agree that peo­ple who are men­tal­ly ill should not pos­sess guns.

So let’s take steps to ensure that they can’t — and don’t.

Plen­ty of peo­ple are offer­ing sim­i­lar thoughts on social media today. Here’s a col­lec­tion of some of the most cogent tweets we’ve seen today, from fel­low activists, artists, and comedians:

When Amer­i­cans are out­raged, the @NRA is silent. When Amer­i­cans are silent, the NRA is busy push­ing its agen­da. Out­rage must become action.

Remi Kanazi ‏

A nation that refus­es to do any­thing to help its cit­i­zens — espe­cial­ly chil­dren & teach­ers — not get mur­dered is a failed state. #New­town

Nima Shi­razi

I want to live in a world where the men­tal health lob­by is as pow­er­ful as the gun lobby.

Karen Bergreen

It’s not politi­ciz­ing a tragedy to want to avoid anoth­er tragedy.

Brooke Jarvis

It’s time to direct resources & pol­i­cy atten­tion towards this mas­sacre trend in accor­dance with the nation­al secu­ri­ty threat it’s become.

Derek Young

What if we start­ed by requir­ing gun own­ers to pay lia­bil­i­ty insurance?

Miles Kur­land

In my few years, I’ve lived through a lot of sto­ries of shoot­ings. But none had ever shown sur­vivors clutch­ing nap­time blan­kets & pillows.

Hen­ry Kraemer

The next time some­one goes on a killing spree w/a .233 cal­iber soul, lemme know. [Reply­ing to] @GlennBeck It is not the gun. It is the soul.

Robert Sil­ver­man

Guns don’t kill peo­ple. Peo­ple in states with­out gun-pur­chase back­ground checks & wait­ing peri­ods kill people.

John Fugel­sang

Too soon to speak out about a gun-crazy nation? No, too late. At least thir­ty-one school shoot­ings since Columbine. (10:37 AM) […] The NRA hates free­dom. They don’t want you to have the free­dom to send your chil­dren to school & expect them to come home alive. (12:37 PM)

Michael Moore

And from Asia, Mark Kel­ly, the hus­band of for­mer Con­gress­woman Gabrielle Gif­fords, writes:

I just woke up in my hotel room in Bei­jing, Chi­na to learn that anoth­er mass shoot­ing has tak­en place — this time at the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in CT. My thoughts and prayers are with the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims and the entire com­mu­ni­ty of New­town, CT. I just spoke to Gab­by, and she sends her prayers from Tucson.

As we mourn, we must sound a call for our lead­ers to stand up and do what is right. This time our response must con­sist of more than regret, sor­row, and con­do­lence. The chil­dren of Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School and all vic­tims of gun vio­lence deserve lead­ers who have the courage to par­tic­i­pate in a mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion about our gun laws — and how they can be reformed and bet­ter enforced to pre­vent gun vio­lence and death in Amer­i­ca. This can no longer wait.

We’ll con­tin­ue to update this post with more reac­tion as we get it.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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