Here we go again.
With last week’s slaughter of 20 school children and six adults in Connecticut, the decades-old debate about guns and how to get better control of them has risen to a fever pitch.
Within minutes of Friday’s assault, millions of Americans were calling for new federal legislation to outlaw weapons like the high-powered assault rifle used by the deranged 20-year-old shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary.
We heard similar demands after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 and Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. Gun control advocates were also out in force after last July’s mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater in which12 people were killed and 58 others injured.
This time, we hope the issue gets more than lip service from state and federal lawmakers.
Gun enthusiasts tend to steer the discussion toward school security and mental health services, both legitimate topics. Do we need to do a better job of identifying people likely to commit mass shootings and get them help before they act? Yes. Should states and communities stop cutting back on critical mental health services? Absolutely.
Improved school security is also worthy of discussion, but we’re not sure the debate is headed in the right direction. During his Tuesday morning radio show on WTOP, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Virginia should consider arming teachers, principals and other school staff members as a way to keep our children safe.
“If people were armed, not just a police officer but other school officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the school,” said McDonnell.
While we’re at it, let’s hand every sixth grader a can of mace and have every teacher place a grenade in their right-hand drawer.
Turning our schools, churches and shopping malls into armed fortresses isn’t the answer.
The primary focus has to be on making it more difficult for potential killers to get guns.
One doesn’t need to be a gun-hating, Second Amendment-bashing liberal to wonder why such destructive and powerful weapons are readily available to just about anyone who wants them. In fact, the argument can be made that it would be easier to get an assault rifle in Virginia this afternoon than it would be to get a doctor’s appointment.
That has to change.
To get the ball rolling, set up a presidential or congressional commission to review current federal gun laws, their effectiveness and how they can be improved with an eye on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and those with serious mental health issues.
There are some obvious initial steps.
First, make deadly assault-style weapons and large ammunition clips impossible for individuals to lawfully own.
Second, subject every firearm to a strict permitting process and require dealers to record every sale with the state and federal government.
Common sense also must be part of the equation.
It’s worth noting that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, used guns legally obtained by his mother to carry out his deadly mission. Nancy Lanza, who was reported to be an avid gun collector and shooter, failed to see the danger that her son posed to himself and their community. That failure resulted in more than two dozen deaths and deeply saddened a nation.
In the weeks and months ahead, let’s hope we can place a silver lining around this incredibly dark cloud.