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Now are we ready to talk about guns?

Connecticut tragedy, with 20 children dying, should jar us

It's so difficult – but frighteningly easier now – to imagine: You are the parent, the spouse, the sibling of a schoolteacher or student. The phone rings. A text buzzes. There's been a shooting at the elementary school...

What do we do with Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn.? Twenty-six people were murdered, including 20 elementary school students who were sent off to school that morning with homework signed, lunches packed, jackets buttoned, hugs given.

What do we do with this shooting, which follows shootings at an Oregon mall this week, which follow a dozen people slain at a Colorado theater in July? Each of them at a place so banal and safe – the school, the mall, the movies. Each at the hands of someone who had lost his mind – but obtained a gun.

We don't pretend to know the precise legislative solution here. Some argue that guns should be harder to find and harder to register for, that people might make the decision to kill, but guns make it easier to kill so many. Some, incredibly, advocate for even more guns so that gunmen will not know who is out there ready to stop them.

What we do know is this: Each time we endure these tragedies, big and small, we come up with excuses that make it less relevant to our lives. It's a deranged person, it's drug violence, it's a death wish. What can you do to stop that?

Here's what: Start talking. Effective gun control hasn't happened because legislators aren't talking seriously about it happening. Maybe now. Maybe with all the dead Friday, with 20 of them children, we can finally muster the grief or outrage or fear that the phone might someday ring in our kitchen. Maybe now, finally.

GOP gives up power

Count North Carolina among the many Republican-led states cutting off its nose to spite its face over health care exchanges.

The exchanges, an online marketplace for health insurance shopping, are a central feature of the health care reform law. States can choose to control them themselves or give up control and have the federal government do it. That option was added to appease state Republicans who didn't want to cede more control to Washington.

But in a great irony, Republican-led states, including North Carolina, are in such a huff over the health care law that they ignored Friday's deadline to submit a plan for a state-run option. So the feds will do it instead, by themselves or in a partnership with the states.

Republicans often worry about Washington's overreach. This time they invited it, and they might not like the result.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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