We may never come to understand exactly what was on the crazed mind of Adam Lanza, the man identified as the Connecticut gunman who set out from his home with murder in his heart. All we know, based on reports, is that this troubled young man had an issue with his mother, a schoolteacher in Newtown, Connecticut, that so enraged him he drove with a .223-caliber assault rifle and at least two other guns to attack in cold blood  an elementary school where she taught.

By mid-morning break at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, a reported 20 children and six adults were also dead,* pointlessly killed as they went about their peaceful business of teaching and being taught. As a nation, all we are left with are chilling pictures of frightened schoolchildren clutching each other in a crocodile line, weeping in fear and in horror at what they have just witnessed.

We are left wondering, what was Lanza thinking? Why should so many suffer for his agitated state? Why does a possible family quarrel end in a massacre of unrelated innocents? What price must we continue to pay in human lives to protect the Constitution’s apparent guarantee for us to bear arms?

In America, we rightly elevate the place of the individual in society. We are repeatedly told we are all created equal and that each of us is important. It is this belief, that each of us matters, and what we think and feel is worthwhile and significant, that has drawn millions of people from around the world to live in America. Compared to the Old World, where individual rights have so often been routinely trammeled, America offers every one of us a special consideration that puts our singular personalities above communal demands.

That individualism is essential to who we are as a nation. It is non-negotiable.