When good people encounter evil, whether as a manifestation of nature or human nature, they feel frustrated. It would be worse if they didn't and took matters in their stride. It would be very unattractive if people just shrugged and said: "Well, isn't it too bad, toddlers and teachers mowed down by some lurking lunatic! But hell, there's nothing we can do, so what about dinner?"
Even though doing nothing is preferable to doing the wrong thing, to do nothing after a mass murder of six-year-olds would seem unbearably callous. And that's how it happens, in order to seem caring rather than callous to ourselves, that we end up doing the wrong thing.
The wrong thing will be, unless wiser counsel intervenes, new measures of state control over firearm ownership, possibly extending to monitoring the psychiatric status of individuals or their relationships. Guns may become the state's passkeys to the nation's bedrooms. The measures to control them will reduce people's freedom and dignity without increasing their security. What they will increase, though, is their sense of alienation.
Consider the latest U.S. tragedy. The question to ask is: Would any gun-control measures enacted, or even proposed in free and democratic societies, have prevented it? The answer is no. The Newtown shooter used his mother's (and first victim's) guns. The strictest gun-control regime permits a woman with no criminal record or psychiatric history to keep non-prohibited and properly stored weapons in her home. No gun laws proposed or implemented make a parent's gun ownership subject to a successful psychiatric evaluation of teenagers in the household.
Banning guns altogether is a different story. A complete ban of firearms in the hands of private individuals would undoubtedly reduce gun violence, but only if strictly enforced, in conjunction with confiscation and destruction of the existing stock. It would have to be combined with draconian penalties for non-compliance. It would also have to be retroactive; for, if grandfathered, such a law would leave great quantities of weapons in private hands, changing only their legal status and value. This means mass-murdering maniacs would be obliged to massacre their victims with illegal weapons more often than they do now. It does not mean that they would commit fewer massacres.
Since it takes a tyranny to implement total prohibition, it is mostly tyrannies that make the attempt. Not surprisingly, elimination of privately-held firearms significantly reduces gun-related violence in tyrannies that try it. Gun violence doesn't vanish in these types of societies, but it becomes the monopoly of the state, along with most other things, from commerce to art. Violence, crime, even insanity are nationalized, so to speak. Ideas or acts we consider human rights, the tyrannical state diagnoses as psychiatric conditions in secular nations, or blasphemy in religious nations.
In such countries, the streets are generally safe and orderly, at least until the people who have traded liberty for safety try to reverse the deal by revolution, where they risk all their safety to gain a little liberty, but usually gain only another tyrant. (For more detail, see the Arab Spring, among others.)
Some of my friends think highly of liberty, but have little use for guns, and have a hard time talking about the two in the same breath. Some suggest I should take it down a notch, warning that I'll risk not being taken seriously if I keep conflating liberty and firearms.
"Why does anyone need a military assault rifle?" one friend asked.
In fact, military assault rifles are prohibited weapons in most jurisdictions. They weren't used in any of the mass shootings, and aren't part of the debate. But the question illustrates why gun control is tied so closely to liberty.
Strictly speaking, no one "needs" anything but a breath of air, a cup of water and a bowl of rice. The rest are individual choices we make as free human beings, if that's what we are, instead of wards of the state. Liberty means not having to answer, explain, or justify, any of our choices to anyone.
Why does anyone need a military assault rifle? I've no idea. I certainly don't, but at one time I owned six motorcycles (and knew people who owned 20). I would have had no trouble explaining why I needed them, but would have highly resented having to do so. Just yesterday, I heard of a person who owns nine cats. She keeps them in her apartment, and doesn't have to justify to me why she needs them. And if city hall thinks she does, city hall is wrong.
Whether people collect cats, rifles, motorcycles, travel experiences or books, in a free country their "need" is fully justified by their "want." End of story.
But in fact guns are easier to justify than motorcycles or cats.
Guns protect. We buy them as taxpayers for our politicians' bodyguards. As long as we don't buy them for our own protection, few politicians object.