Adam Lanza was armed with a semi-automatic rifle when he entered Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown. The death count was 26 people, including 20 students from two classrooms.
If he'd had to stop to reload, some of those 20 children would have had time to escape, as some were reportedly fleeing through the door when they were mowed down.
If he'd been armed with a couple of handguns instead, with a limited number of bullets, the death count would probably have been in single digits. It's possible he'd never have gotten past that courageous principal.
If he'd been armed with a knife, the death count would probably have been zero.
If the first responders had been located further away, Lanza probably would have killed more than 26 people before killing himself as the police arrived ten minutes after the shooting began.
I used to think a mass murderer armed with a high powered, high capacity rifle in a classroom full of young children was the worst-case scenario.
It no longer is.
That situation is no longer a hypothetical scenario, but I can think of worse now: A day care center, with an angry man who doesn't intend to kill himself before police arrive. A mall, filled with holiday shoppers and one man who doesn't need good aim in order to kill everyone he imagines ever slighted him. A football game, where a man shoots his way in and kills everyone in his path, including armed guards who can't raise their weapons in the split seconds between bullets.
The death toll could be higher, and it will be. One day.
But only in America, because in every other country where mass shootings have occurred, laws have been changed. It is no longer possible to obtain the sorts of weapons that inflict such rapid and intensive damage as the weapons that Adam Lanza had access to.
Instead, in America there are already proposals to arm teachers. If every teacher in Sandy Hook had been armed, it's highly unlikely any of them would have managed to stop the brute force of Adam Lanza's Bushmaster AR-15 during those ten minutes. That's the stuff of Hollywood movies and suspense fiction and video game consoles.
In real life, children are actually killed by loaded guns left in accessible places.
I didn't want to write anything about this shooting. I wanted to wash my hands of America and its gun-nuttery. I wanted, above all, to avoid any glimpse of those smiling six-year-old faces. Because I know that their deaths could have been prevented. They should have been prevented, if America cared as much about its children as it does about its citizens' supposed right to arm themselves with high powered weaponry no other civilized country would consider allowing access to.
But I clicked on a picture of one of those young victims, and I read the story of one of the young teachers—a woman who could have been my daughter—and the anger welled up again.
And the questions came, rational attempts to crowd out the anger and grief that otherwise occupy my mind.
What if America came to its senses? What if the next would-be mass murderer is armed with a baseball bat, instead of a Bushmaster?
Would your daughter then be the one whose arm is broken as she confronts the intruder, and whose life is spared? Who joins your Chrismas celebration, gets engaged to her boyfriend, has her own children one day...
I try not to get carried away with what-ifs—I am not counting on any big changes happening in America, Land of the Free—free to be preyed upon, by murderers as well as arms manufacturers and their lobby.
Because the what-ifs, the worst-case scenarios, just keep getting worse and worse, and like a boiled frog, America will never jump out of that pot.