January 17, 2013

Our View: Response to Newtown required bold actions

The images are still fresh in our minds. We still see the shock on the parents faces, the tired eyes of the first responders, and the steady parade of funerals for innocent children who were gunned down in their classrooms.

It may be true, as some critics charge, that President Obama's ambitious package of gun violence regulations can't guarantee that the massacre of innocents in Newtown, Conn. last month could have been prevented, but that misses the point.

The images of Newtown are a call to conscience that should not be ignored.

To say that we should shrug and do nothing in the wake of this mass murder is saying that the killing of 20 children and six adults who cared for them doesn't matter. That our freedom to keep and bear arms means that we have to tolerate senseless violence, that the only response to guns is more guns.

Obama's proposals were familiar to those who have been following the debate since the first reports from Connecticut appeared.

He called on Congress to enact an assault weapons ban, targeting semiautomatic military style weapons like the one reportedly used by Newtown shooter Adam Lanza.

And he is calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines, like the 30-shot clips Lanza used to fire between 50 and 100 shots in minutes.

Obama also called for an end to the loophole that lets buyers in private sales avoid mandatory background checks.

All of those are common-sense reforms that could stop a killer, or at least slow him down enough to minimize the carnage.

In a series of executive orders, the president directed different agencies of the government to do a better job of communicating with each other, to make sure information about criminal and mental health history makes it into the federal data base, so fewer guns slip into the hands of people who should not have them.

And he issued an order to lift a nonsensical ban that prevents public health research into the causes of gun violence and ways to reduce it.

The problem is bigger than just Newtown. Obama noted that 900 people have been killed with guns since the massacre in Connecticut. But Newtown has changed the way we look at the role guns play in our society.

While the images are still fresh, we should do what we can to prevent this kind of crime, even if whatever we do may not be enough.

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