12/17/2012 03:15 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2013

Christmas in Connecticut

The murderer of little children wore combat gear. What war was he fighting? Who was his enemy? Who gave him his marching orders and high-powered weapons? As he shot multiple rounds and the count of very small bodies piled up, what battlefield was this soldier boy surveying in his deranged mind? Why did he wear combat gear if he intended suicide? Did he really expect that kindergarteners would attack him? And did he see himself as hero or victim? Or both.

Could it be this killing field in an elementary school for Adam Lanza was not about survival, but simply about waging battle? And because this disturbed young boy lived in a country where assault weapons are part of his "right," his heritage, and his home life, he simply had motive, opportunity -- and firepower?

He also had training. His mother, a "gun enthusiast," had apparently taught her son to shoot. This boy's imagination was already skilled in strapping on guns and shooting at targets with whatever chaos might have been inside his young and troubled mind. Perhaps Adam Lanza -- as so many of our young -- played realistic video games like the best-selling Mortal Kombat, and Medal of Honor 2.

In his books, On Killing and Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a psychology professor at West Point, decries video war games. He believes that bloody, but unrealistic "murder simulation" is not only unethical, but also dangerous -- especially for young people.

"We are leaning to kill," Grossman warns, "and we are learning to like it." He worries that we've "taken the safety catch off our nation."

This latest Connecticut killing spree had all the markings of a young boy calculating his "kills" in some mortal video game. And how many of us have just gaily wrapped video war games for our children under the tree or even bought them their first shiny new guns? Shouldn't we be protecting our children from violent video games and guns, instead of arming them? Instead of taking them on down to the shooting range for even more target practice?

Mass shootings in America are no longer an aberration; they are the horrifyingly "new normal" in this gun-toting country of ours. We mourn this latest tragedy with so many questions -- but not enough self-scrutiny or responsibility. Our medias are filled with experts opining on why some Americans target others with such brutal efficiency -- in schools, movie theatres, fast food chains, and hospitals. Where one or two Americans are gathered, there shall their guns be.

New York Mayor Bloomberg on Meet the Press calls on President Obama to take a strong stand on gun control and make it a priority of his second term. Democrats are calling for a ban on assault weapons. Republicans pledge their allegiance to the NRA.

Gun control advocates plead with the president to take a stand in our blood-drenched land. Gun rights advocates scream that if we arm ourselves, we can better protect ourselves. But do we really need semi-automatic rifles and assault weapons in our homes? Or in our suburbs? Wouldn't a single pistol or simple rifle be enough for self-protection? In earlier centuries, when America was more rural, many families owned guns for hunting or home safety. There were not these relentless massacres with body counts like in a war zone.

Beneath the politics and the tidal wave of soul searching, we need to look more clearly at the violent character of our country. And make some connections between what is happening here and who we have become as a nation. We are no longer that sentimental and good-hearted America portrayed in the film fantasy of a returning war hero in Christmas in Connecticut.

To most of the world, we are a warrior nation with big weapons and big delusions about our "waging peace." We are feared by the world, which looks at the statistics of our American mass shootings and is frightened. We are still fighting a war in Afghanistan that seems never-ending. We are still patrolling in Iraq. We are the world's biggest gun. And we can't seem to stop ourselves from killing. From acting out our fears and our self-righteous Top Gun dominance with terrible and unbridled firepower.

We feel more secure with our weapons of mass destruction, just as we zealously warn other countries against them. Yet we set no example of real self-disarmament here at home. We can't even fight off our own NRA lobby and their insistent demand for more deadly firepower in our trigger-happy hands.

What happened in Connecticut is so alarming and gut-wrenching that we must look at ourselves in a much more sober and less sentimental light. What has the battle toll of endless war -- and easy access to weapons of massive destruction -- taken on our psyches and our young?

America is tragically out of control with our weapons and our wars. And our trigger-itch solutions to complex, moral problems. When our country has been fighting endless wars, and our rabid, powerful gun lobby has armed even our mothers with high-powered weapons, of course there will be a home front. And now our beautiful children are dying. The battleground is here. This is who we are becoming. This is Christmas in Connecticut.~

Brenda Peterson is the author of 17 books, including Duck and Cover, a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," and the recent memoir, I Want To Be Left Behind, named as a "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year," by The Christian Science Monitor.

For more: BrendaPetersonBooks