Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 23, 2012

Editorial: Americans must demand changes in our gun laws


---- — Not this time.

This time, with 20 tiny children slaughtered in their own school, national and state politicians must be held accountable for the ongoing gun carnage in this country and learn to worry more about what their constituents want than the gun lobby.

We can start by laughing the National Rifle Association out of the discussion. After waiting a week to comment on the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., chief NRA lobbyist Wayne LaPierre said Friday the solution is to post armed police officers in every American school to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings."

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said — apparently with a straight face. How about if the bad guy can't get a gun? How about if he can't buy multiple 30-shot ammunition clips or a semi-automatic rifle designed for military use?

This time, Americans need to reject the alternate reality mumbo-jumbo spewed by LaPierre and the gun lobby's other talking heads and demand real reform. Some suggestions:

n Require background checks for everyone who buys a gun and close the loophole that allows almost anyone to buy a gun at gun shows or from private dealers with virtually no restrictions and no background checks. Walmart spends millions doing background checks on gun buyers; why should some guy who sets up a card table at a gun show be exempt?

n Reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. It banned semi-automatic, military-style rifles that can hold 30 or more bullets and are intended for military, not civilian use (fully automatic weapons have always been banned). The assault weapons ban was passed in 1994 and was not, as the gun lobby preachers warned, the end of the Second Amendment. It lapsed in 2004 because members of Congress didn't have the guts to stand up to the gun lobby.

n Limit high-capacity ammunition clips like the ones used by Adam Lanza in his attack on 5- and 6-year-olds huddled in their Sandy Hook classrooms. He was carrying a semi-automatic rifle and multiple 30-round clips, police said, more than enough bullets to kill everyone in the school.

In civilian life, who needs to carry around 100 or more bullets for his semi-automatic rifle? Who needs a semi-automatic rifle? Nobody.

Predictably, LaPierre also stuck to the NRA's standard post-massacre script Friday and blamed violent TV shows, movies and video games for some of the nation's ongoing gun slaughter.

President Barack Obama has singled out the actions listed above as a start toward limiting guns, but he also pledged to come up with a plan that addresses education, mental illness, and cultural factors behind gun violence.

Any such plans must be based on widely accepted ideas. Goofy over-reaching proposals or efforts to eliminate guns cannot be part of the mix because most Americans won't buy in.

The nation must demand practical, enforceable regulations. While the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own firearms, the version ratified by the states says "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Note that it says a "well-regulated" militia, which indicates the Founding Fathers foresaw regulations on "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."

Take 10 minutes and write or call your Congressman and your U.S. Senators and demand change. Nothing less. Your voice, like your vote, can matter. The NRA has only 4.3 million members, a fraction of the national electorate (Obama had more than 58 million votes Nov. 6, Mitt Romney just over 56 million) but we let the NRA call the tune on gun control. Why?

We can't wait until the next Sandy Hook or until this atrocity has faded from memory.

Not this time.