Weep for the children, then pass sane gun laws
The Kansas City Star
Weep for the slain schoolchildren and their devastated families. Weep for the town of Newtown, Conn., scene of the latest mass shooting. Weep for America, where these scenes happen again and again.
And then, for God’s sake, let us do something about it.
The gunman this time, police are saying, was 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Authorities say he shot his mother at home, then took two handguns into Sandy Hook Elementary School, where his mother taught kindergarten. He murdered 20 defenseless children. The school principal and four other adults also died in the gunfire before Lanza took his own life.
We will learn much more about Lanza in the days to come, just as we were shown a window into the disturbed mind of James Holmes, who opened fire this summer in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. And Jared Loughner, who wounded U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six persons in Tucson, Ariz., two years ago. And multiple others.
These people took weapons to public places where people were innocently going about their lives — schools, movie theaters, college campuses, shopping malls. Their intent was to kill, whether they knew the victims or not.
It happens much too frequently in America. The massacre in Newtown was the second such tragedy of the week, the first being at a shopping center in Portland, Ore. A shooter killed two shoppers and wounded another before turning his gun on himself.
More innocent people were murdered at a movie theater in Colorado in July, at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in August, and at a Minneapolis workplace in September.
We need better ways to identify people likely to commit mass shootings and get them help before they act. States and communities must stop cutting back on mental health services.
But we also need to deal with the gun issue. It is too easy in the United States for disturbed individuals to obtain weapons capable of killing multiple persons.
Mother Jones, a news organization that has researched the subject extensively, tracked 61 mass murders with firearms since 1982 in the United States. The weapons overwhelmingly were either semiautomatic handguns or assault weapons, and most of the killers obtained them legally.
We reject the argument that calling for limits on gun possession politicizes the tragedy in Connecticut, or the other shootings.
If 26 persons were killed in a bridge collapse, we would have an immediate discussion about fixing our bridges. It makes no sense to continually skirt around the gun issue when innocent people keep dying from gun violence.
“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics,” an emotional President Barack Obama said Friday.
Yes, we are.
Meaningful action would include a permanent ban on assault weapons. Congress shamefully allowed a temporary ban to expire in 2004.
High-capacity magazines should be outlawed. The shooter in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater rampage this summer was able to kill or wound 71 persons in at most a minute and a half.
That suspect had stockpiled multiple weapons, including an assault rifle with a magazine capable of firing 50 to 60 shots a minute. He had done so legally and without having to register the purchases with authorities. The ease with which a disturbed person in the United States can build an arsenal defies logic.
America is not a nation that will be bullied by some political lobby into standing by helplessly after 20 of our children are massacred in their schools. We need tougher gun laws and we need them right away.