But that was before Friday.
That was before the nation learned the unspeakably horrific details of how a 20-year-old gunman in a bulletproof vest shot his way into a Connecticut elementary school and used a .233 caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle to kill 6- and 7-year-olds in a hail of bullets.
And so as the flames of countless candlelight vigils still flicker in the December mist, two questions linger after the second-worst mass killing in U.S. history:
Is this what it took, this, the wanton slaughter of first-graders, to finally reach a tipping point, to finally start a national conversation about a runaway gun culture and the other causes of a level of violence that takes place in America like nowhere else in the industrialized world?
And if this is a tipping point, what would a solution even look like in a nation so deeply divided on the meaning of "the right to bear arms," and so mired in political gridlock?