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With this kind of slaughter, what kind of nation are we?

IT'S NOT THE GUNS, stupid.

At least, it's not the Glock, Sig Sauer and Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that a 20-year-old monster brought with him to slaughter 20 young children and their teachers last Friday.

It's the 270 million guns that are sitting in houses and gun safes, in rifle racks and glove compartments all over this nation. It's the culture of guns - nine guns for every 10 Americans - that we must confront. How can we lead the world in per-capita gun ownership and still be surprised that Friday's tragedy happened, and that it happened last week in Oregon, and months ago at a movie theater, and could continue to happen over and over and over again?

How is it that the only time the people in this nation come together, it's always over a tragedy like this? We can't connect to one another without killing one another first.

That is sick.

What's also is sick is that gun lovers are saying that if more teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary were armed, they could have prevented this. That was a sick statement when a gunman shot up Virginia Tech, and a sick statement when someone shot up a movie theater. We hope the shameful absurdity of suggesting that kindergarten teachers should walk around armed - in a school that had state-of-the-art security measures in place - may finally, finally dismantle that ridiculous idea once and for all.

What's also sick is the fact that Second Amendment cultists suggest that banning the kind of semi-automatic gun that allowed Lanza to spray multiple rounds into the bodies of babies is a governmental overreach. The ban on assault weapons lapsed eight years ago and was never renewed.

Also sick: The fact that the gun lobby continues to throw dollars at willing and complacent elected officials - let's call them what they are, congressional whores - who close their eyes and let this happen month after month, year after year.

The sickness is not just in mass killings like Connecticut's, but in our city, with hundreds killed each year with guns - legal and illegal. Although whether guns are legal and illegal is beside the point: both kinds belong to the culture of guns, the culture of killing. We need to face up to the fact that we love killing one another, and maybe we shouldn't be allowed to own so many guns. Maybe that's the conversation to have instead of "reasonable controls" and "a national debate."

And while we're at it, let's try this on for size: Those who demand unlimited access to weapons - and bark at anyone suggesting restrictions on the number of guns they can buy - are not defending the Constitution, or freedom or integrity. They're defending their own disease. A disease that makes them freak out if they can't buy more than one gun a month.

Let's start calling them on their bullshit.

It's time for angry voices to penetrate the fog around Washington, including the White House, that the culture of guns is sick. And it's time to use the same weapons the gun lobby does: big, generous checks, to lawmakers and gun-control organizations. Let's come together over another idea: that we are not a nation that allows 20 children to be slaughtered.