America's wrenching conversation over how to stop another mass shooting like that at Sandy Hook Elementary grew more complex this week -- virtually by the hour.
Restrict guns and ammunition, some argued. No, others said: Improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness first.
Give teachers guns, still others suggested. Limit access to violent movies and video games. Build intruder-proof schools.
By midweek, no consensus emerged for preventing the next massacre other than that something needs fixing.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday his administration will make "concrete proposals" by January to help stem gun violence. He endorsed restricting military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
"Words," the president said, "need to lead to action."
He put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of developing a response to the mass shooting and claimed a growing consensus for restricting high-powered weapons. Obama urged Congress to hold votes on such measures early next year. He said the administration's review will include regulating firearms as well as the impact of mental health and cultural issues. He cited the gun deaths of two Topeka police officers Sunday and the recent shooting of 4-year-old Aydan Perea in Kansas City as examples of "violence that we cannot accept as routine."
The Biden-led team also will look at improving access to mental health services and, Obama said, at a "culture that, all too often, glorifies guns and violence."
"The fact that we can't prevent every act of violence," the president said, "doesn't mean we can't steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence."
That was but one piece of the complicated decisions facing lawmakers in the dreary aftermath of the latest schoolhouse slaughter.
There are, it seems, no simple answers.
"You're not going to be able to look at a situation like this and name one (single) piece of action that would have prevented it," said Amy Campbell of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.
That hasn't stopped advocates and politicians from proposing a series of remedies.
Tighter limits on weapons and ammunition were the earliest and most controversial options emerging this week.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said she would introduce legislation banning the manufacture or sale of so-called assault weapons, similar to the rifle the Sandy Hook killer used Friday.
"We must take these dangerous weapons of war," she said, "off our streets."
Other proposals included closing the so-called gun-show loophole, which allows the private sale of most firearms without a background check.
Gun rights groups say they'll fight those measures, or anything like them.
"Gun control does not work," said Kevin Jamison of the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance. "It has never worked."
Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said this week he would oppose any legislation that he believes would infringe on the Second Amendment, which broadly protects the right to own weapons. He said he doesn't think any gun or ammunition control bill would survive a Republican House and a likely Senate filibuster.
"I'm sure I would vote against anything that impacts, in a negative way, the Second Amendment," he said. "I don't have any reason to believe (assault weapons have) anything to do with this incident."
Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, urged authorities to address the "root problem" of the killings, but would not reveal a position on an assault weapons ban.
A spokesman for Sen. Claire McCaskill said the just re-elected Missouri Democrat would support a ban on assault weapons and, potentially, limits on ammunition clips.
"Claire ... believes we can do better by our children with a little common sense," said spokesman Drew Pusateri in an email.
The push for gun control has long been controversial, with each side presenting contradictory studies. Those debates may soon become even more complicated because of the problems created by the growing patchwork of local, state, and federal weapons rules.
Connecticut has relatively stringent gun laws, including a permit requirement for handguns. "Assault weapons" are prohibited there. The guns used in the Sandy Hook killings were legally obtained.
Some states allow concealed weapons and some do not. Rules on weapons vary widely. A permit is required for a handgun in Omaha, Neb., while Missouri law bans brass knuckles -- but not semi-automatic rifles.
The National Rifle Association, easily the most powerful interest group on the matter, said it was "shocked, saddened and heartbroken" by the Newtown massacre. It's promising a "major news conference" Friday. The group already appears poised to fight an assault weapons ban. The host of an NRA talk show said this week that the now-expired prohibition on the guns was "a failed experiment."
Every school district in the nation is likely reviewing its safety procedures, said Paul Fennewald, adviser at the Missouri Center for Education Safety at the Missouri School Boards Association. His group, working with law enforcement, has offered "active shooter" response training.
But much of the debate this week involved arming teachers, administrators or school guards.
Gun rights groups such as the Gun Owners of America and conservatives like former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett said giving adults in schools the chance to fire back might deter shootings and save lives.
Some urged an end to school building gun bans.
Earlier this week, a bill was filed in the Missouri House to let any public school teacher with a concealed-carry permit take firearms into state schools. The chairman of the Missouri House Judiciary Committee told The Associated Press this week he saw a "correlation between these horrible acts of violence and the gun-free zones." State lawmakers in several other states said schools should allow weapons for qualified adults.
"If you do that, you have to make sure you give them the proper training," Fennewald said. "You're giving them the same responsibilities as law enforcement."
But most teachers and administrators would resist arming themselves, said former Johnson County teacher Sue Storm, who is leaving her seat on the Kansas Board of Education in January.
"There may be a few people in a building that already have enough skill and judgment that they could be trusted to do it," she said. "But I don't think there would be a lot of support for that in the teaching community."
On Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have allowed concealed weapons in schools.
Providing armed guards at schools would be expensive.
There are almost 99,000 public school buildings across America. Training, equipping and paying for one guard at each might cost $4 billion or more. Improving locks, classroom security and campus safety could cost yet more billions.
And despite the tragedy at Sandy Hook, mass killings at school are extremely rare. A 2004 Department of Education report put the odds of an in-school student death by gunshot -- either murder or suicide -- at less than 1 in a million over a four-year period.
Blunt and others say the latest school massacre points out that "we can do some things about mental health that will make a difference."
But fixing the nation's mental health system -- assembled largely on a state-by-state basis -- could prove complex and costly. Indeed, cash-strapped state governments have continually cut funds for mental health treatment.
"That leaves the mental health community in a situation where they have to triage people who come to their doors," said Campbell of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition. "They're going to treat the people who come there, but they're going to wait longer."
Even if mental health providers were fully funded, though, the scientific and legal challenges of treating the mentally ill would remain.
Civil liberties groups and some advocates for the mentally disabled often oppose involuntary incarceration of all but the most seriously ill patients. Courts can become clogged with involuntary commitment cases, in part because experts are faced with the difficult task of predicting behavior.
"We are not very good at predicting who is likely to be dangerous in the future," Richard Friedman, a psychiatry professor, wrote in The New York Times this week.
At the same time, some argued this week that in-patient mental health treatment can reduce violent crime.
"States where involuntary commitment was easy had roughly a third less murders than states where it was very hard," wrote Clayton Cramer of the College of Western Idaho.
The Sandy Hook killer's motives may never be understood. It is also not publicly known if his family sought professional help before the murders.
Media and culture
A violent media culture has also been blamed.
"We haven't even started talking about the corrosive influence of a violent-oriented world, TV, video games -- shoot-to-kill video games," Republican and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said on NBC Sunday.
A direct link between violent images and the Sandy Hook killings -- or, more broadly, between mayhem in the media and acts of mass murder -- remains tenuous.
"There has never been a causal link established between real-life violence and video game violence in any verifiable scientific study," according to the website of the Entertainment Consumers Association, a video game trade group.
Even if such a link were proved, though, regulating media content runs into the same problem as gun control -- the Constitution.
"There's no question that creators of content have to be aware of what they're producing, the implications of it," said Dan Glickman, the former chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America and now a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "At the same time, recognizing their First Amendment rights as well."
Movies are voluntarily rated for content, he said, and violent content is getting more scrutiny than in the past.
Even some liberal Democrats, typically steadfast allies of Hollywood, say media violence can't be ignored.
"By the time children reach 18 years old, they have seen tens of thousands of violent images -- on television, the Internet, or video games," Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, said this week.
"While we don't know if such images impacted the killer in Newtown," he said, "the issue of violent content is serious and must be addressed."
All of these issues are complicated, interrelated and politically troubling, those who talked with The Star said this week. Addressing each perfectly might not stop the next Sandy Hook.
"What if there is nobody or nothing to blame?" asked columnist Ron Fournier at the National Journal. "Would that make this inexplicable horror unbearable?"