Once more our nation has been horrified by an unthinkable crime, a shooting rampage Friday in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The toll is one of the highest in the nation's sad history of such events, with at least 27 people dead, including 20 students between the ages of 5 and 10. Only the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, where 33 were killed, exceeds the toll at Sandy Hook.
Once again, questions pour out - Who could do such a thing? Why did he do it? Were there warning signs? Could he have been stopped?
The most important question, and the one hardest to answer, is how do we keep this from happening again?
We can put metal detectors and security guards in our schools, and it still happens, as it did in Red Lake. All schools now have lockdown plans and hold drills to practice what to do in case of such an invasion. Those procedures may have saved lives in Newtown on Friday, but the killer still managed to wreak incredible violence.
The suspected shooter, who died at the scene, was a 20-year-old named Adam Lanza whose mother taught at the school. His mother is among the victims, and may have been the primary target of the assault. We don't know yet what personal turmoil Lanza was going through that led him to this despicable act.
We will hear debates about gun control in the weeks ahead. We need the debate. Something has to be done about the vast number of guns in this country, so many of them owned illegally, or unlicensed. Do we need stronger laws, or stronger enforcement of our existing gun laws?
But in many cases like this, the shooters are often someone who bought guns legally and had no prior history to indicate they should not be allowed to own guns. Or they may steal the guns from somewhere.
As a nation, we have gone through this experience too many times. And we will go through it again, we fear, until we find the resolve to do something substantive about it.