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Argus-Courier editorial

The violence must end

Published: Monday, December 24, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.

Shortly after the news broke about the heinous murder of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school last Friday, Petaluma’s newly elected Congressman Jared Huffman declared on Facebook that when he gets to Washington next month he will “work to get sensible gun control back on the national radar screen, and that includes a ban on assault weapons.” We applaud Huffman’s commitment to stopping the carnage and hope that he, along with Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, are successful in getting legislation passed that would severely limit the ability of killers to access the high-powered firearms so often used in such slayings.

Why should stricter gun control laws matter to Petalumans who live in a reasonably safe and secure community? During his speech Sunday night at a prayer vigil in the badly shaken community of Newtown, President Barack Obama pointed out that such mass killings, sadly, can happen anywhere in America. The victims “lost their lives in a school that could have been any school, in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.”

In fact, the Connecticut massacre was just one of numerous mass killings that occurred this year in our country’s movie theaters, shopping malls, colleges, and elementary and high schools. The reason they happen so often is clear: The United States has the loosest gun control laws in the entire developed world along with the very highest per capita rate of gun ownership, far higher than any other country. With so many guns available to almost anyone who wants one, gun-related deaths are understandably off the charts in the United States. In 2008, there were more than 12,000 firearm-related homicides in the United States. In Japan, where gun ownership is strictly controlled, there were just 11 gun-related deaths that same year. It’s a simple, if grim equation: more guns equals more people murdered.

The question now is whether enough members of Congress have the courage and good sense to finally take reasonable steps to curb Americans’ unfettered access to an unlimited supply of deadly firearms. Surely our founding fathers, in crafting the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, did not intend that children be slaughtered in their classrooms by someone using a military-style assault rifle with multiple clips, each holding 30 bullets. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that anyone and everyone should be able to access and use any kind of firearm imaginable.

Assault weapons, like the popular semi-automatic AR-15 rifle used by the Newtown killer, should be banned entirely. In 1994, Congress did just that, but the federal ban on assault rifles was allowed to expire in 2004. Since then, the weapons have been selling like hotcakes.

Ammunition clips that contain more than 10 bullets should also be banned. No deer hunter requires a magazine with more than 10 bullets.

A ban on assault weapons appears likely to win passage due to the public outrage over the school shootings in Connecticut. There is no legitimate reason -— target shooting or otherwise — for private citizens to possess such devices that are manufactured to kill. But we encourage Huffman and other lawmakers to consider much stronger restrictions on the sale and ownership of handguns which are used in the vast majority of murders committed in the U.S. Every day in America someone is killed with an ordinary handgun, mainly because their supply is far too plentiful and they are relatively easy to acquire.

Banning assault rifles and high capacity magazines, and more sensibly regulating the sale of handguns and ammunition, would undoubtedly save lives and prevent future tragedies such as the one in Newtown. Unfortunately, many Americans really enjoy playing with these deadly toys and do not want to give them up, even if doing so would save lives. One of the nation’s strongest lobbying groups, the National Rifle Association, along with the gun manufacturing industry, are deeply concerned not with the families in Newtown, but with the possibility that the school rampage there might spark new laws that would limit firearm distribution and gun sale profits.

Clearly, their priorities are tragically misplaced.

When Huffman is in Congress next month to discuss gun control, he will sit alongside fellow Congressman Louie Gohmert from Texas, who said on Fox News that he wished the Newtown school principal had an “M4” military-style rifle in her office as she might have used it to “take out” the man killing her students. Gohmert’s proposed solution to the problem of having too many guns: issue even more guns, to the point of arming school principals with assault rifles. We’re sorry, but we think Gohmert’s position is patently inane.

Meanwhile, on Saturday night, an outstanding 17- year-old football player, Montreal Blakely from Concord High School, was shot in the head by an unknown assailant while standing with a few friends on a street corner in San Francisco. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Blakely was described as a “polite, respectful young man” whose “thoughts were always on others.” He carried a 3.6 GPA and would probably have attended a UC school next year. A vigil will be held for Blakely tomorrow evening on the school’s football field.

Just one more young victim of America’s uncontrolled epidemic of gun violence.

John Burns, Editor and Publisher

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