First comes the tragedy, then the funerals, and then the talking. We will lament our violent culture, give lip service to mental health and walk past the gun lobby like cowards whistling past a cemetery in the dark, until the next mass shooting - one every two weeks according to FBI stats - and then the funerals, and more talking.
And so it goes.
We thank God it wasn't us and simply move on as the circular arguments are argued again and again and again.
Don't waste time telling your gun-advocate friends you spring from a gun family or that you count among your friends gunsmiths, gun-shop owners and hunters. A one-time member of the NRA, at the range I liked the M-16 the best. This means nothing to the zealot. You can be the parent of a dead child pleading for reasonable action and they are unmoved.
Don't waste time learning statistics. The debate is strictly emotional. Tell your friend we have more guns than grains of sand and he'll tell you a grandmother in Ames blew away a rapist with her AK-47 and the discussion is over.
Don't waste anyone's time with total gun bans. Banning all guns is a preposterous fantasy and is the ludicrous counterpoint to the loony NRA at the other end of the spectrum.
Don't waste time dissecting the Second Amendment with Constitutional psychics divining intent.
All of our rights have limits that we, the people, and our courts have agreed upon. No Founding Father intended Somalia as the template for a more perfect union.
Don't expect requiring permits and training for possession of concealed weapons, restoring the ban on combat-style weapons, eliminating gun-purchase loopholes, registering firearms and banning high-capacity clips to be met with anything other than the slippery slope trope that snips reason before it blossoms. Such logic saves my friends from the rigors of thinking.
When I say "immigration reform" my conservative friends hear "amnesty" and the discussion is over.
No matter how many times one says "I believe in the Second Amendment right to bear arms" if one utters the phrase "sensible gun laws" all they hear is "The government is coming to take away your gun!" Perplexed by your naive foolishness, they wonder why you can't see the black helicopters packed with jackboots beyond the horizon. Clutching their NRA membership cards to their chests, the discussion is over.
Don't waste your time pointing out that no citizen, including me, would ever surrender his right to self-defense and that this infantile "Red Dawn" script would lead to 100,000 Ruby Ridges and America's end.
Hawking this paranoid fantasy is the heart of the gun lobby's religion. The gun-damentalist errs on the side of fear, enjoying the romantic and ego-inflating notion he is a lone figure protecting our republic from evil gun snatchers, and overlooking the fact this is the same Keystone Kops government that couldn't raid a compound in Waco, Texas without it becoming a disaster. This mythology makes an ordinary life terribly meaningful.
Twenty schoolchildren are savagely murdered with a combat weapon and we mute our outrage because a lobby built upon promoting this irrational argument owns the cowards in Washington.
Weary of argument, we will instead light a candle in memory of the children of Newtown, in memory of all of the beautiful lights among us that have been extinguished by gun violence this year and in years past. And in an expression of shame at our inability to engage in meaningful common sense action we will pray our nation's leaders will see the light in this hour of darkness.
Email Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons: firstname.lastname@example.org