OPINION: How many more?
It's an obvious question coming from all over the globe as the world recoils in horror at yet another mass shooting at an American educational institution.
It's not an easy question to answer, but the other widespread question relating to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut is one that's much more difficult to come up with a response to: How on earth can this be stopped?
Of course the two questions are closely related. In answer to the first one, it seems certain, if recent history is anything to go by, that without significant steps to address this ongoing problem, the list will simply continue to lengthen.
And let's not forget that focusing on shootings at schools and universities excludes other massacres, like the recent one at a screening of a Batman movie.
But what action can somehow arrest this alarming trend?
Of course, it's not a uniquely American problem. The horrendous and senseless slaughter of 20 children aged six and seven in Connecticut brings to mind, among other incidents, the massacre of young children in a class in Dunblane in Scotland some years ago.
The horrific slaughter by Anders Breivik of children on a youth camp in Norway stands out on its own among senseless mass killings to have taken place in recent years, for its scale and its sheer mercilessness.
But nowhere has the phenomenon recurred like it does in the United States; Sandy Hook joins other institutions, notably Columbine High School in Colorado and Virginia Tech, on a growing roll of horror that includes dozens of other incidents that saw multiple young lives cut short.
If anything, this latest tragedy stands out because of the numbers killed, and their tender years; no wonder President Obama was moved to tears in responding; it's tough not to feel the same when looking at pictures showing the innocent, trusting faces of youngsters whose last seconds would have been filled with the kind of terror we cannot begin to imagine.
Plainly, there's no magic, miracle solution to the problem in the USA, but there's simply no doubt that greater control on the ownership and use of guns must be a factor in addressing this problem. The American atrocities have in common with those elsewhere a deadly degree of disenchantment with and disengagement from society on the part of the perpetrators.
The fact that such tragedies unfold so much more often in America simply has to relate to the ease with which such people can obtain guns. It's hard to see the problem changing without those regulations being tightened up.
- The Timaru Herald