Editorial: Support Obama's proposal to help end gun violence

By The Beacon | January 30, 2013 9:00pm

(Zack Hartman | THE BEACON)


Since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14 that killed 20 six- and seven-year-olds and eight adults, including the shooter and his mother, there have been five school shootings within a span of 13 days.

These five shootings, from a 16-year-old opening fire at a high school in Kern County, Calif., to a man pulling out a gun during an argument, claimed three more lives and injured eight people.

These numbers do not even scratch the surface of the deadly problem of gun violence.

In 2010, 606 people died from unintentional firearm injuries.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), "more than three women a day, on average, are killed by an intimate partner," and 60 to 70 percent of these women were killed by guns, according to studies conducted from 1980 to 2000.

On Jan. 16, President Obama issued a gun control initiative proposing congressional action in response to this escalating gun violence.

The system in place is clearly not working. It is time for a change. If there is any time for this proposal, it is now, before more innocent people die.

First, Obama's initiative proposes to reinstate the 1994-2004 ban on assault weapons for anyone but law enforcement and the military.

Since the ban ended in 2004, there has been an average of 3.1 mass shootings per year - almost double the average of 1.6 during the ban, according to an investigation by the magazine Mother Jones.

Along with banning assault weapons, Obama's plan proposes a ban on armor-piercing bullets and magazine rounds of more than ten.

This would prevent shooters from firing dozens and dozens of rounds indiscriminately, resulting in large-scale fatalities such as those at Sandy Hook and Aurora, Colo..

The National Rifle Association (NRA), a major influence on Congress, has taken up its familiar retort to the proposed bans: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA, believes the root of the problem is not guns, but gun-free school zones. His solution is armed police officers in every school in America.

The belief that adding more guns to the equation will solve the problem of gun violence is absurd.

Neither the armed sheriff at Columbine nor the security force at Virginia Tech stopped these massacres.

Yes, people kill people.

But guns with high-capacity ammunition rounds that have been designed to kill quickly and efficiently make it much easier to kill - and to kill in large numbers.

Gun rights activists argue that any limits on gun ownership and magazine capacity infringe upon their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

But there is no reason for any civilian to have an assault weapon. In the instance that someone uses a firearm to protect themselves or others, there is no need to use a weapon more appropriate for use in the military.

The initiative also proposes requiring a universal criminal background check for all gun sales.

Currently, private gun sellers are exempt from running criminal background checks on gun buyers. The proposed requirement would prevent many potentially dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun.

Gun rights activists argue that these measures will take away their freedom.

If the freedom to own an assault weapon or buy a gun even if you have a criminal history is the freedom they fear losing, then this freedom is not as important as the freedom of innocent people to live without fear.

Gun rights activists fear passing this initiative will leave law-abiding gun owners defenseless while criminals, who have no qualms about obtaining assault weapons illegally, will be the only ones armed.

However, not one of the 62 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982 has been stopped by an arms-wielding civilian.

Furthermore, civilians are not trained in how to respond in crisis situations like law enforcement officers are. Allowing civilians to carry assault weapons because the government trusts them to use their firearms appropriately in response to an emergency is, again, absurd.

The initiative also wisely proposes financing mental health programs for young people.

This includes training more mental health professionals to serve students and young adults as well as helping school districts work with mental health agencies and other organizations to ensure that children with mental health or behavioral issues receive services to help them.

These programs would provide much needed resources for children and young adults with mental health issues. While most people with mental health issues never commit violent acts, making treatment more available would prevent those with violent tendencies from acting out.

Lastly, the initiative proposes financing emergency response plans for schools and training more police officers, first responders and school officials on how to respond to armed attacks.

This way, in the event of a school shooting despite the ban on assault weapons, schools will be ready.

Congress has the power to prevent tragedies like the massacre at Sandy Hook. Congress has the power to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands, to ban weapons designed to kill and to address the lack of resources for the mentally ill.

If Obama's proposal passes, perhaps parents can breathe easier when they drop their kids off at school in the morning.

Mall workers can go to their jobs without worrying about a shooter on the loose.

And we all can stop anxiously awaiting the next headline, wondering how many victims there will be this time.


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