AMIDST THE outpouring of grief and expressions of sorrow from most of America after the massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut, the smile on the face of a few was faintly seen in the background. Despite a tragedy that brought a nation to a standstill, a president to tears and parents nationwide to the brink of worry about their own children, even though their innocent youngsters were in schools thousands of miles away, the few smile on. They may have even had a chuckle at our expense, knowing in their hearts that no matter the billions of tears, no matter the depths of sadness, their rights will stay the same.

Those smiling few and their cowardly leadership have saints anew after Friday, and they'll honor them as they do all victims of gun murders, by buying more battlefield-appropriate weapons. They'll celebrate by donating more funds to be used to purchase the conscience of craven members of our legislatures and our national Congress. To them, their rights are more important than lives. To them, every bullet that is fired in America is a testament to their freedom.

While the rest of us reel in shock that someone could legally own an assault rifle that could kill 26 people in that school in less than five minutes, the few bite their lips beaming with pride that their liberty remains. They will not have to sacrifice their rights to own a weapon for which no legitimate purpose can be verbalized. They won't bend to public pressure, because they don't have to. The few are organized. They have their own group to buy our leaders who make sure that these rights enjoyed by the smallest few put the greatest number at risk of the ultimate loss.

The few are cowards. They need their ridiculous weapons. They fire them at God-knows-what for God-knows-why at their gun club or at some defenseless animal. They do so because they are freedom-loving freedom-lovers whose false-patriotic adherence to gun-culture nonsense fuels national massacres.

For most of us, it wouldn't be hard for us to sacrifice a hobby if practicing it meant that random, innocent people would die. However, the few cannot do without their guns. But for the selfish needs of this few, assault rifles and other deadly weapons used on Friday or on any day of the week in Philadelphia would not be available.

The few murdered those kids. They may not have pulled the trigger, but they murdered them. The few don't care who dies, because for them, the children are martyrs for their cause of freedom. In the coming weeks, the few will laughably likely call for less-restrictive gun laws and say that if everyone was armed someone could have stopped the newest madman. They'll say if everyone were armed, fewer innocent bystanders on the streets of Philadelphia would die. The few will say this with a smug grin, knowing that they will win.

The few will win, because we, the many, will let them win. Nothing will change. Perhaps that makes the many part of the few, even if a large portion of us will never touch a gun. We will all talk about how no one should have access to an assault rifle, but the few will still be able to go out and gobble up as many as they can. We will wonder why anyone would need more than one or two handguns, while the few will polish and shine their death machines. Some of us may even protest and try to influence a few votes in the statehouse, but the few will beat us at every turn.

The many pray for the souls of these children. We feel the anguish in our hearts for the parents, knowing that one day we could join them as parents of martyrs for the rights of the few. The few thank these children for shedding their blood as a testament to their bastardization of the Constitution. The few is forever indebted to those children for their part in our senseless homage to misplaced liberty.

The last refuge of cowardice lies in the invocation of liberty to defend the indefensible. I've seen the cowardice on television the past few days from the mouths of the few, just like I saw it from their hero after Columbine or even after our City Council annually tries to rein in gun crime that has littered our streets with bodies. In our nation's history, we have learned that freedom can only be won by those who will make the ultimate sacrifice.

The few continue to have their freedom because of 20 first- and second-graders, their teachers and their principal, who made that ultimate sacrifice. Hopefully, the few can wipe away their smiles for long enough to pay tribute to those who died to defend their ill-gotten and ill-kept freedom.

A.J. Thomson is a parent in Fishtown.