Yet again, we find ourselves dealing with the slaughter of the innocent. Four times in the last few years we turned on our televisions, only to see weeping survivors — husbands, wives, citizens, casualties of mayhem all. But now it is fathers and mothers, and the brothers and sisters of 6-year-olds — 6-year-olds!

We can no longer even protect our kindergartens. How many times must we endure hideous murder of the innocent before we reawaken our sanity? How many of our children must be sacrificed upon the alter of a Rambo nightmare of which some wish to play?

This fetish need to playact has become an absurdity. I do not need wannabe warriors to protect me. This delusional dream of protecting my rights from an evil government must end. If your overwhelming desire is to play at being a warrior, then man up and join the Marines.

I have stood in opposition my entire life against my government. First against the insanity of Vietnam, then against the Central American wars, and then the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I fight equally against the denial of basic human rights by a government that hides torture behind a newspeak language of “enhanced interrogation.”

At no time did I contemplate picking up a gun to deny my fellow citizens their basic right to life to effect political change. Yet fellow Americans demand the right to bear arms, which is really the fetish desire to possess weapons of war, weapons of slaughter. These weapons of war can and do maim and kill scores in mere seconds.

When I was a child, I played childish games. When I grew up, I set aside those games and assumed adult responsibilities. As a child, I played at war. I shot my friends a thousand times only to see them miraculously reborn to resume the game. In Vietnam, I learned the dead stay dead. Those who died, died for lies — for “truths” that shifted with the political seasons. The children of Vietnam were brutalized by that war. And now those nightmares that have haunted me from that war have added yet another reality: It is our own children who have become brutalized by the same weapons of war that I carried in a real war.

An M-16 on fully automatic can empty a 20-round clip within seconds. What purpose can such a killing device serve other than to kill — to kill quickly and kill many? Does one really need a magazine of death for target practice? Can you really call hunting a sport with such weapons? Is a deer really that threatening? If such a weapon is truly needed by wannabe Rambos to fight a mythical dictatorship, then why not allow the ownership of machine guns? Why not rocket launchers? Why not helicopters gunships? Why not the devil’s breathe — napalm?

When did a nebulous “right” to own a weapon of war deny me my basic right to go to the movie theater with my wife without the risk of death? When did gun rights become paramount over my right to talk to my congressperson on a street corner? When did my right to visit a shopping mall, a lecture hall, simply to walk down the streets in safety become secondary to the right of some to engage in delusional payback to society? When did gun rights overshadow the right of a 6-year-old to go to school?

Years ago, I left a war bitter over the lies and brutality of it. The most disheartening being the price children paid that I sadly saw firsthand on a hospital ship. The burnt flesh, the scarred faces of innocent children were the real and immoral cost of war. Now the mourning of grieving mothers and terror stricken fathers — sights and sounds that tear chunks from our hearts — have become a reality. War on the homefront is made against the fragile and small with weapons of war that are legal to possess. The weapon used to kill mere children is what I carried in a real war against a real and heavily armed adversary. This same weapon is now used to rip the life away from children.

Our first responsibility as responsible adults is to our children — to feed them, to educate them, to love them. But all of this is impossible unless we secure them the most basic of all rights — their right to live. We have failed, and we have failed miserably in this — the most basic of duty of a civilized society. We should all be shamed by this slaughter of the innocent.

Ken Williams has been a social worker for the homeless for the past 30 years. His writings and opinions reflect only his personal views. He does not speak as a representative for or on behalf of any organization with which he may be affiliated. He is the author of China White and Shattered Dreams, A Story of the Streets. He has just completed his first nonfiction book, There Must Be Honor.