The tragic deaths at Newtown, Conn., have once again focused attention on one of the most painful problems this nation faces, gun violence. The nation cannot let this moment pass without some meaningful action to stem America's epidemic of gun violence.
About 30,000 people are killed by firearms in America each year. All too often the victims are young. Twenty-seven people were killed Friday in Newtown; 20 of them were young children. The assailant used a semiautomatic assault rifle in his massacre, the same weapon used in the 2002 Washington area sniper shootings that left 10 people dead. Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders using firearms across the United States. In a majority of these cases the assailants obtained their weapons legally.
The killings at a lower school in Newtown are inexplicable. How could anyone commit such evil? The deaths of these innocent children, who were robbed of their precious and promising lives, must be a turning point for this country. It is time to act.
In his speech Sunday, before grieving parents, friends and neighbors, President Barack Obama challenged himself, and all Americans, to face this most heinous problem. "In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have?" the president said. "We can't accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"
But this problem is made even more complicated by the fact that there are more than 200 million privately-owned guns in America. The right to own guns was enshrined in the U. S. Constitution by America's Founding Fathers. The second amendment to the Constitution reads, "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."
But two hundred years ago there weren't any semiautomatic assault weapons or high capacity magazines filled with ammo. There weren't any warlike computer games. There weren't any violent movies that captivate audiences with bloody shoot outs. Today, these are all as American as apple pie.
At this moment all Americans feel the suffering and pain that was brought on by a deranged lone gunman in a quiet village that represents the values and ideals of this great Democracy. It is time to send a powerful message. Congress must quickly pass a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons so the president can sign it into law before the end of the year.
And in memory of those 27 innocent victims of Friday's senseless mass murder, call the legislation the Newtown Semiautomatic Weapons Ban Act. Give those who have suffered from this latest atrocity, and the countless thousands of other gun violence victims, the comfort of knowing something has been done.