The unanswerable questions wrought by gun violence

Police stand before grieving residents following a shooting December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

(CBS News) Friday's awful events in Newtown, Conn., bring back some all-too-familiar questions: "How could this have happened?" and "What can be done?" Here's Martha Teichner:

Somehow, the idea that little children had been shot made it worse.

Elementary schools are supposed to be safe places. So how could 20-year-old Adam Lanza have entered one in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday morning and killed 26 people, and then himself?

And who could comprehend the horror of being summoned to a massacre by text message or robocall, then being told, "Your child is dead"?

Robbie Parker's daughter, Emilie, was one of the 20 dead children. Now, they are no longer anybody's children.

Everybody's children.

We know their names - eight boys, 12 girls. All first graders. And we know that Dawn Hochsprung, the principal, used to dress up in costumes to make her students smile, and that teacher Victoria Soto died sheltering her class.

The details are starting to emerge about Adam Lanza and his mother, Nancy.

Marcia Lanza is Adam Lanza's aunt: "She eventually ended up home schooling him, because she battled with the school district, in what capacity I'm not 100 percent certain," Marcia said of Nancy Lanza. "If it was behavioral, if it was learning disabilities, I don't know. But he was a very bright boy. He was very smart."

Smart but troubled? We've heard that before, and we've watched before. As the story plays out in slow motion, like some endless TV police procedural.

This time with the president playing his part. "We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics," Mr. Obama said.

But what, when? Exactly the same thing has been said every time it's happened. The shootings haven't stopped. And politics has always gotten in the way.

Will Newtown be any different?

It's already been ranked the second worst school shooting in American history. Virginia Tech in 2007 was the worst - 32 people died there.

At Columbine High School in 1999, 13 people were killed, another 2 dozen wounded. But since when have school shootings had their own grisly greatest hits list?

"What we see is patterns of one of these incidents inspiring, if you will, disturbed people who are already thinking about doing something like that to do copycat incidents, or to enhance their own incident to make it worse" said CBS News senior correspondent John Miller.

Can that be stopped?

"Well, there's a series of chicken-and-egg questions there," Miller replied. "Is it the security of the physical premises? Is it the gun laws?"

Adam Lanza's mother, we've learned, was a gun enthusiast. She owned the guns her son used to kill her and the rest of the Newtown victims.

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