Gun enthusiasts thronged to shows around the country on Saturday to buy assault weapons they fear will soon be outlawed after a massacre of school children in Connecticut prompted calls for tighter controls on firearms.

Reuters reporters went to gun shows in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Texas, and found long lines to get in the door, crowds around the dealer booths, a rush to buy assault weapons even at higher prices and some dealers selling out…

D.R. Woody was one of those able to purchase an assault weapon at the Kansas City show on Saturday. He bought the gun for target practice because he is concerned they soon will be banned. “I didn’t expect to find one. No gun stores have them,” said Woody of the AR-15 type of gun.

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Asa Hutchinson — the former congressman who will lead the effort by the NRA to place armed security guards in schools across the country following the Newtown, Conn. shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead — told me this morning on “This Week” that gun control efforts would not be part of the “ultimate solution” to gun violence…

“Let’s compare this back to the federal air marshal program on airplanes. There was intense debate that on airplanes, guns have no place, and yet we have a federal air marshal program that I helped to oversee, and which has provided a deterrent,” he said. “It has increased the safety of the airlines, and it’s not like it’s an armed camp when you go on the airlines. It’s a very discreet use of armed guards that has a presence there to protect America.”…

“I think it takes away — it — whenever you pass those kind of laws, you think, well, we’ve done something. We’ve somehow made our children more safe, so you go home. I don’t think the job is really accomplished anything if you take that approach,” he said.

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker became visibly frustrated over a debate on gun control on ABC’s This Week Sunday, telling panelists, “I don’t know if anybody here has seen someone shot. I have.” Calling the gun control conversation a “false debate,” Booker went on, “Most of us in America, including gun owners, agree on things that would stop the carnage.”…

Booker called the gun control debate a “convenient trick to try to divide our country more.” According to Booker, 74 percent of NRA members “agree that nobody in America should be able to buy a gun without doing a background check.” Booker believes the country isn’t as polarized on the issue as it may appear. He went on to say, “Let’s stop the false debate.”

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“One of these mothers from Connecticut should do an Emmett Till moment; show the picture of their child dead in the classroom.”

That’s a text I received earlier this week from my TV One show producer. When I got it, a chill immediately went through my body just thinking about the possibility of seeing the carnage in such a photo…

When my producer sent me that text, I recoiled at even the mere mention of seeing with my own eyes the real life results of what a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle could do to a 6-year-old body. But maybe I should see it. Maybe Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association should have to answer to such a photo when he is interviewed…

Maybe if all Americans had to bear witness to such a photo, we would stop ignoring the violence equivalent to the Newtown massacres that is happening in Chicago, New Orleans and other cities across this country.

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That said, the underlying point of all of this evidence of extremely well-armed scofflaws around the world is this: the scofflaws’ motivations don’t matter; agreement with their reasoning doesn’t matter; sharing or even respecting their values is entirely irrelevant. All that matters is that, from one country to the next, across barriers of language and culture, government officials in even the most benign, stable democracies that have attempted to disarm their subjects, or to limit the weapons available for legal ownership, or even to do no more than track gun owners and register guns, have run into overwhelming resistance. Mass defiance has crippled registration programs, hobbled confiscations schemes and made a mockery of licensing programs.

Given a choice between complying with restrictions on firearms ownership and defying the law, a clear majority of people in most jurisdictions have chosen rebellion. The tighter the law, the more obvious the rebellion, to the point that the vast majority of firearms in civilian hands in Europe are owned outside the law.

If history is any judge, that’s probably a good thing. But even if you don’t agree, this is a world in which civilians are well-armed, and intent on staying that way.

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For those untouched by death this Christmas, someone else’s bewildering, shattering turn of fate ought to occasion a little modesty and circumspection. Instead, even by its usual execrable standards, the public discourse post-Newtown has been stupid and contemptible. The Left now seizes on every atrocity as a cudgel to beat whatever happens to be the Right’s current hottest brand: Tucson, Ariz., was something to do with Sarah Palin’s use of metaphor and other common literary devices — or “toxic rhetoric,” as Paul Krugman put it; Aurora, Colo., was something to do with the Tea Party, according to Brian Ross of ABC News. Since the humiliations of November, the Right no longer has any hot brands, so this time round the biens pensants have fallen back on “gun culture.” Dimwit hacks bandy terms like “assault weapon,” “assault rifle,” “semiautomatic,” and “automatic weapon” in endlessly interchangeable but ever more terrifying accumulations of high-tech state-of-the-art killing power…

It would not be imprudent to expect that an ever broker America, with more divorce, fewer fathers, the abolition of almost all social restraints, and a revoltingly desensitized culture, will produce more young men who fall through the cracks. But, in the face of murder as extraordinarily wicked as that of Newtown, we should know enough to pause before reaching for our usual tired tropes. So I will save my own personal theories, no doubt as ignorant and irrelevant as everybody else’s, until after Christmas — except to note that the media’s stampede for meaning in massacre this last week overlooks the obvious: that the central meaning of these acts is that they are without meaning. Herod and the Pennsylvania Indians murdered children in pursuit of crude political goals; the infanticidal maniac of Sandy Hook was merely conscripting grade-school extras for a hollow act of public suicide. Like most mass shootings, his was an exercise in hyper-narcissism — 19th-century technology in the service of a very contemporary sensibility.

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For a week after the Newtown shooting, the conversation was dominated by the self-righteous certainties of the American center-left. In print and on the airwaves, the chorus was nearly universal: the only possible response to Adam Lanza’s rampage was an immediate crusade for gun control, the necessary firearm restrictions were all self-evident, and anyone who doubted their efficacy had the blood of children on his hands…

But instead of a kind of skepticism and sifting from conservatives, after a week of liberal self-righteousness the spotlight passed instead to … Wayne LaPierre. And no Stephen Colbert parody of conservatism could match the National Rifle Association spokesman’s performance on Friday morning…

Unfortunately for our country, the Bloomberg versus LaPierre contrast is basically all of American politics today. Our society is divided between an ascendant center-left that’s far too confident in its own rigor and righteousness and a conservatism that’s marched into an ideological cul-de-sac and is currently battering its head against the wall.

The entire Obama era has been shaped by this conflict, and not for the good. On issue after issue, debate after debate, there is a near-unified establishment view of what the government should do, and then a furious right-wing reaction to this consensus that offers no real policy alternative at all.

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The NBC moderator then confronted LaPierre with several newspaper reactions to the press conference, headlines which called LaPierre “crazy” and a “gun nut.” The NRA CEO was unfazed: “If it’s crazy to call for putting armed police in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” he replied…

Asked to name one gun regulation he’d support, LaPierre said he’d want to prosecute drug dealers possessing guns, and go after felons possessing firearms. Gregory shot back that the NRA head was simply calling to prosecute criminals, but he wanted to know if there are any specific gun regulations he’d support. Without directly answering the question, LaPierre’s response boiled down to “No.”

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One area to review, Keene suggested, echoing what conservatives have emphasized since the Dec. 14 shooting, is “what’s wrong with our mental health system?” Lanza was said to have potentially suffered from various mental disabilities, including Asperger syndrome.

“I’m not saying that every mental patient is a potential killer,” Keene said. “I’m not saying that everybody that watches a video is a potential killer. That’s not true. But neither is, everybody who owns a gun is a potential killer.”…

“In the it next few years, there are going to be dozens of lawsuits brought to say what is and what isn’t reasonable restrictions,” Keene said. “We’ll argue those, and we’re perfectly willing to. Today, Bob, the question isn’t how many bullets are going to fit in a magazine; is the gun somebody has got ugly or not ugly? The question is, can we keep guns out of the hands of people who are potential killers?