The heartbreak of Friday's shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., today is giving way to anger that another incidence of violence has been caused by an unstable individual using a military-style assault firearm.
We have no doubt this incident, which left 28 dead including 20 6- and 7-year-olds who were students at the school - will finally lead to a frank and open discussion on the availability of firearms and mental illness.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has long championed hunter's rights, believes it is time for this to happen. Manchin, like others, wonders if assault rifles should be readily available. However, he also acknowledges what we hope others involved in this discussion will acknowledge - the role of menal illness in this shooting and the others that preceded it.
"This is bigger than just about guns," Manchin said. "It's about how we treat people with mental illness, how we intervene, how we get them the care they need, how we protect our schools. It's just so sad."
We hope that gun-rights supporters will take part in this discussion and not, as they have in the past, dig their heels into the ground at the mention of any kind of gun control regulation. Comments such as Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, who suggested the students at Sandy Hook would have been better off if the school's principal had an assault rifle in her office, do not help their cause and only serve to make them look more militant and out of touch with reality.
President Barack Obama was right when he said the nation mourned with the people of Newtown. The best way we can honor the memory of those young children and their teachers who died trying to protect them would be to ensure something like this never happens again.
But, unfortunately, that has been said before.