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Jimmy Greene holds a photo of his daughter, Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, one of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as his wife, Nelba Marquez-Greene, right, is comforted by her mother during a news conference to call for a national dialogue on gun violence. Relatives of 11 of the children and adults killed at the school have formed a group to join the national debate on gun violence.OZIER MUHAMMAD/The New York Times

The failure of the United States to protect its children should be uppermost in President Barack Obama's mind as he prepares to announce his gun-control reforms on Wednesday.

If it were only the targeting of children at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month, or of teens and young adults at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., last summer, the problem would be challenging enough. But it goes so much further. More than 3,000 people from birth to age 19 were killed by guns in 2007, a number equal to 150 Newtown massacres. It is the omnipresence of guns that poses countless dangers to children.

Newtown is a community in which residents use automatic weapons in unlicensed shooting ranges near their homes. The 20-year-old killer, Adam Lanza, had an adolescence filled with the sound of explosions from powerful guns. His mother, with whom he lived, owned several guns.

Joseph Hall, of Riverside, Calif., was just 10 when he shot his neo-Nazi father dead with a .357 Magnum. His father beat him regularly, the judge said, as he found him guilty of second-degree murder. Why wasn't he protected from his father? Why was he allowed access to a gun? Now he faces a custodial sentence until 23. Why is he to blame, and not the society that failed to protect him?

These problems will need more than President Obama to solve. They need brave local and state legislators to stand up to gun owners and the gun lobby. Much better identification of children at risk and mental-health treatment are needed.

This week, the National Rifle Association hypocritically introduced (after denouncing violent video games) a free, target-shooting app for mobile phones, rated as appropriate for age 12 and up. The goal is obvious – to normalize gun ownership for an entire generation. That is what Mr. Obama is up against.

The question that he and all policy-makers will need to answer was put eloquently by David Wheeler, father of a murdered child in Newtown: "Ask yourself, what is it worth doing to keep your children safe?"