Twenty schoolchildren pay for our lax gun laws • Celia Murray
A terrible national tragedy occurred last week which left 27 people, 20 of them 6- and 7-year-olds, dead at the hands of a young man who took three guns, including an assault rifle, into a grammar school.
While we mourn, we need to be cognizant of the basic facts. Some of the most noteworthy:
1. American children ages 5 to 14 are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries.
2. More Americans die every six months in gun homicides and suicides than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
3. A person on the terrorist watch list can legally buy a gun in this country.
No other developed country tolerates the number of gun deaths that plagues the United States. As Nicholas Kristof, writing in the New York Times, put it, “The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns.”
No one, including this self-identifying liberal, proposes banning guns. My son and nephews are hunters, and I respect their right to gun ownership. However, the time has come to enact sensible gun laws.
Yes, an evil man will always find a way to get a gun, but we can do a great deal to reduce the carnage that takes the life of an American every 20 minutes. We can bring back the assault weapons ban; we can prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines; we can require background checks for all gun sales, including gun show and private sales; we can prohibit the purchase of multiple guns within a short period of time; we can make gun serial numbers more difficult to erase; we can track sales of ammunition and ban armor piercing ammo.
Guns are not the only problem. We also need to adequately fund mental health services. And, as Tom Brokaw said, “It’s not enough to talk about access to guns. We also have to address a popular culture that treats graphic violence as routine.”
There is new hope in the face of tragedy. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced Sunday that she will introduce an assault weapons ban bill on the first day of the new Congress. "Who needs these military-style assault weapons? Who needs an ammunition feeding device capable of holding 100 rounds?" Feinstein wrote on her campaign website. "These weapons are not for hunting deer -- they’re for hunting people."
Unfortunately, the real tragedy isn’t one school shooting but, rather is, as Kristof says, “the unceasing toll across our country.” But, perhaps, in face of the Connecticut massacre, our collective humanity will compel us, politicians and citizens alike, to finally stand up to the NRA and demand sensible gun laws. Surely, the horror of 20 slain children is not what the framers envisioned when they drafted the Second Amendment.
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Committee.
Printed in the December 20, 2012 edition