We need to talk about guns
According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns – a coalition of more than 700 mayors spanning the country – 34 Americans are killed with guns every day.
That’s more than 12,000 people a year, which shouldn’t be surprising given that Americans own an estimated 270 million firearms, or 88.8 guns for every 100 people.
Some gun-control advocates still harbor fantasies of legally eliminating a large percentage of those weapons – namely handguns and assault rifles. The horrific, heart-wrenching massacre in Newtown, Conn., gives new urgency to that objective.
But it will never happen on a scale broad enough to satisfy those who understandably want a quick and emotionally-charged solution. Which is why we are impressed by and supportive of the efforts by all those mayors.
They seem to recognize that far too many Americans own and love their handguns to ever put that genie back in the bottle. But they also understand the critical need to reduce the risk that criminals and crazy people will continue to have access to weapons that so easily kill.
The mayors want a national effort to eliminate the gaps in background checks that still allow millions of guns to fall into dangerous hands. Last year, more than 905,000 background checks were conducted in California, more than half of them involving mental health records. But thousands of records are still missing from the system, even though the state’s penal code prohibits gun ownership by, “Any person who has a conviction for any misdemeanor listed in Penal Code section 12021(c)(1) or for any felony, or is addicted to the use of any narcotic drug, or has been held involuntarily as a danger to self or others … Various other prohibitions exist for mental conditions, domestic restraining/protective orders, conditions of probation, and offenses committed as a juvenile.”
From what we know so far, more precise background checks wouldn’t necessarily have stopped Adam Lanza, but it might have, and his mother should have better understood the synergistic risk from available firearms and a troubled son.
Similarly, the easy availability of an assault weapon with 30-shot magazines, enhanced the ease of Lanza’s murderous slaughter.
So where do these thoughts lead?
Car enthusiasts are required to license and register their vehicles, and to demonstrate an ability to safely drive them. Cars that don’t conform to certain safety and clean air standards aren’t allowed on the road.
We can’t understand why different standards should apply to guns.
Assault weapons, multi-round magazines and armor-piercing ammunition have no purpose but killing people.
Eliminate them and the risk doesn’t disappear. Improve the registry and not every inappropriate applicant will be weeded out. But those are small steps we need to take while openly exploring the culture of violence we have all helped create in our midst.
The NRA could help lead a national dialog on rational gun policy. They engineered the first ban on machine guns. We wish they would join a respectful conversation on how to prevent the next tragedy before it happens.