The horrific tragedy in Newtown on Friday has cast the eyes of the nation -- indeed the world -- on a community in overwhelming grief.

The deaths of 27 innocent people -- 20 of them little children, just 6 and 7 years old -- at the hand of a madman with guns has also cast a bright spotlight on the failure of this nation to take significant action to try to prevent such atrocities.

There have been more than 30 mass shootings in the United States since 12 students and a teacher were murdered at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, including the slaughter of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 and the 2011 assassination attempt on Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords that left her critically injured and six others, including a 9-year-old girl, dead.

And yet this nation has failed to act.

We can wait no longer.

It is time -- well past time -- for a serious, thoughtful, non-partisan national conversation that leads to meaningful action.

That conversation needs to include a discussion about the sensible regulation of guns in this country.

We support the Second Amendment, which guarantees Americans the right to bear arms.

But we do not support the right of anyone besides the military and law enforcement officials to own assault rifles, high-capacity magazine clips and other implements that provide the capability to kill many people quickly.

And we believe all Americans -- gun owners, non-gun owners, Republicans, Democrats, everyone -- should agree that such weaponry must be outlawed.

The conversation about guns must also focus on the enforcement of existing laws, cracking down on the gun show loophole, ensuring background checks and maintaining an updated national data bank.

The national conversation must also address mental health issues.

Most of the gunmen -- some would say all -- in the mass shootings of the past 13 years have been deemed to suffer from some sort of mental illness or emotional disturbance.

As a nation, we need to more readily recognize and assist those who are struggling mentally or emotionally.

We need to eliminate the societal stigma attached to seeking professional help.

And we need to devote more public spending -- not less, as we have steadily been doing over the past decade -- for the treatment of mental health problems and to increase access to such treatment.

There are other issues that must be part of the conversation, too -- parenting, bullying and the impact of rampant violence in various aspects of the American culture, including video games, movies and television.

President Barack Obama promised Sunday in Newtown to take action to address the causes of tragedies like the one that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School on that fateful Friday, Dec. 14.

We strongly urge him to follow through on that commitment.

We also call on Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Senator-elect Chris Murphy and 5th District Congresswoman-elect Elizabeth Esty to help lead a healthy national conversation and successful enactment of important legislation.

We also encourage local governmental, school, community and religious leaders to discuss and seek out ways to help reduce the potential for another mass shooting.

Then perhaps the legacy of the victims of Sandy Hook will be that they helped reduce the violence in America.