Gun control supporters take part in a candlelight vigil at...

Gun control supporters take part in a candlelight vigil at Lafayette Square across from the White House. Twenty-seven people, including the shooter, were killed on December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. (Dec. 15, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Our flag stands at half mast, from American Samoa to Maine. It will remain there until sunset Tuesday under orders from the president.

Then, at first light Wednesday, Old Glory will be raised in school yards across America again, and the business of the nation will begin anew.

It seems wrong.

All stories come and go. All news cycles end. But the bewilderment that must have been on the faces of those little children in Newtown last Friday morning demands that we fight to keep this tragedy alive, however painful.

The nation can't move on until it decides to do something about Newtown. If it doesn't, it's not the country we know anymore.

We are a land of good people, of good parents. We often disagree with one another. Sometimes fiercely. But we all care about children. They are our common bond, and the fight over gun laws in America now involves them.

If the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary had been carried out by terrorists -- as happened at a grammar school in Russia in 2004 -- we would be drawing up war plans. I bet a million Americans would volunteer to hunt down the perpetrators.

This isn't so easy. The perpetrators are our own.

Yes, guns don't kill people, people do. But the guns and high-capacity rifle clips being sold in this country today are making it too easy to kill a lot of people quickly. And young men with serious problems are routinely getting their hands on them.

Yes, guns aren't the only weapons that can kill en masse. A glass Coke bottle, a rag, and a dollar's worth of gasoline could have killed just as many people in that Aurora, Colo., movie theater as the gunman's AR-15.
But there's something about gun rage in particular that has captured the imagination of twisted individuals in this country, and a small percentage of them are acting out their fantasies with appalling effect. Just look at the clothes they wear to the killings. In case after case, these young men are deeply juvenile faux military.

There's a time for politics and a time for healing when tragedies like this occur. The rise of American flag Wednesday morning sounds like a pretty good time for the politics to begin. Sandy Hook Elementary demands politicization.

The debate should begin on one end with repeal of the Second Amendment and on the other with the status quo. And it should go on until some resolution occurs — at a minimum, substantive action on high-capacity magazines, Hollywood and video-game violence, and waiting-period laws for long guns. The Sandy Hook Elementary children deserve a billion words of debate and more.

I was in a school Saturday for a dance performance that included my 6-year-old daughter, a little girl I had hoped to raise in Newtown, Conn. Newtown was my fantasy town, with its quaint general store, New England church steeples and a towering flagpole in its center. I dragged my wife to see homes there in 2006 and 2007, to feel the place's hot-chocolate-in-winter wholesomeness. But in the end, it was too far from New York City for us, and we settled in Westchester instead.

As I watched the little ones shine on stage Saturday, and at the joy their parents felt in seeing them, I couldn't stop thinking about wrapped Christmas presents, the ones that must be hidden away in the closets and attics of shattered Newtown homes.

The Sandy Hook killings are unbearable. We must find a way to bring some good from them.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.