No caring, responsible person can look into the faces of innocent children and then reflect on the shooting in Connecticut without being rocked to the emotional core.

Just a few hours after the shooting my phone began to ring. Reporters, absent any hard facts about the shooting, wanted SAM’s position on new gun regulation.

Sportsmen need time to grieve, too. I can speak for sportsmen and women when I say we were as shocked and emotionally distraught as those advocating stricter gun control.

We have been asked to submit a column opposing several federal proposals to regulate clip size, so-called assault-style weapons and the so-called private gun sale loophole.

We feel there is ample time to have a debate on these three proposals, but believe these very emotional days just after the shooting would be better spent trying to bring calm and reason to the debate.

After the horrible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when 3,000 Americans perished in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, our country came together in an act of national unity that allowed many of us to put aside our political differences and enact changes to our national security policy that have made our nation safer.

We call on all sides to step back and join us in advocating for just such a path this time.

So far in the days since the shooting, gun control advocates have consumed this debate with proposals to regulate guns.

We feel significant lessons can be learned by examining every aspect of the shooter’s life and analyzing where the government, family, friends, doctors and law enforcement might have intervened and where our current policies failed.

We are fully aware that gun control will be a major part of this debate, but it is possible that other factors could have more of an impact on stopping these incidents in the future than gun bans.

As the facts of this shooting emerge, several very glaring red flags are popping up. According to press reports, the shooter was a very disturbed man with mental health issues, his now murdered mother could not handle.

He was a violent video game player who was especially obsessed with games depicting mass shootings. The problems were so desperate, his mother reportedly wanted him admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Given this fact, did she secure the legally owned firearms in her home? Was he receiving help for his disease?

Several reports have stated the killer gained entry to the locked school by breaking a window. What good are school lockdowns if a shooter can gain such easy access?

After 9/11, when it was revealed terrorists easily entered pilot cockpits, our nation instituted new standards for cockpit doors that now ensure evil-doers have nearly no access to passenger jet pilots, preventing a repeat of that horrific day.

A bulletproof door or glass may not stop a potential murderer from eventually gaining access to our children, but what it might do is buy some time for police to arrive and stop the assault.

Most new schools are designed and mandated to include an art budget. Perhaps we could suspend this provision until all schools have bullet-resistant doors.

One of the law changes gaining attention is the so-called private gun sale exception. If that is repealed, this new law would be very difficult to enforce. Many guns are transferred within families from one generation to the next and that’s part of the reason this provision has failed in the past.

Opportunities to do voluntary background checks for private gun sales already exist. In the past, SAM and Citizens Against Handgun Violence partnered on a program called Project Safe Neighborhoods.

As a result, at sportsman’s shows we hand out packets called the Gun Sellers Kit that among other things encourages gun sellers to go to federally licensed firearm dealers to seek a background check before selling a firearm.

Forty Maine gun sellers now participate in the program. Let’s get serious about this little-known service and expand the program now.

With slight changes to include information for gun buyers, we would be more than willing to use our vast contacts to make this service available to more Mainers who sell their guns privately.

Gun control advocates seem very eager to use this tragedy as the catalyst for further restrictions on guns.

Sportsmen and women stand ready to be part of this debate, but let’s work together so the solutions are comprehensive and meaningful.

David Trahan is executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.