Dec. 19 2012 08:43 AM

OK, now is it really, really time for tighter weapon restrictions?

Dianne Feinstein

No one on CityBeat’s editorial staff has a child. We can sympathize, but we can’t really know what it’s been like for parents to watch events unfold in Newtown, Ct., since last Friday and feel the terror of sending their own kids off to school only to never see them again because some young sociopath had something to prove and access to high-powered weaponry.

Still, we all know children, and we can imagine. We can certainly empathize with the grief, and we feel our hearts break as we see the photos of 20 6- and 7-year-olds who were massacred and hear their stories: what they liked to do, whether they had siblings, how they made their families feel.

In January 2011, after a young man in Tucson, Ariz., shot and killed six people (including a little girl) and severely wounded Congressmember Gabrielle Giffords, our editorial called for easier access to mental-health services and tighter restrictions on guns, specifically a new ban on assault weapons.

That didn’t happen. No one thought it would. In the nearly two years since, people have been indiscriminately murdered in shooting sprees in Nevada, California (in two incidents), Georgia, Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota and now Connecticut. During that time, gun laws have only been loosened. Yes, loosened.

Plenty of commentators in the past few days have said that it feels different this time—that this was the incident that will finally prompt action. The ages of the victims shouldn’t make a difference—all people gunned down were loved by someone—but they do.

These were first-graders, born in 2005 and 2006—innocent by any definition of the word, not yet jaded by anything our cruel society has to offer. These were mere babies. And now they’re dead, each shot multiple times in a matter of seconds, because we make it way too easy for screwed-up people to get their hands on weapons created for military combat.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced Sunday that she’d introduce a bill in the new Congress to ban certain types of assault weapons, including high-capacity clips that allow a gunman to fire more than 10 rounds rapidly without having to reload. We had an assault-weapons ban between 1994 and 2004, but Congress allowed it to expire. Several attempts to institute a new ban, pushed mostly by Congressmember Carolyn McCarthy of New York, whose husband was murdered in a 1993 shooting spree, have died in committee. We urge you to contact your member of Congress and tell them to vote yes on the assault-weapons ban.

But that’s just the beginning. We also need to maintain the momentum on a couple of other proposals that are on the table: requiring background checks on all sales of guns in the U.S.—loopholes allow private and gun-show sales without background checks, totaling roughly 40 percent of all sales—and making gun-trafficking a felony. (Speaking of gun shows, folks behind the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in March 2013 say this on their website: “We respectfully request that you do not bring any loaded firearm into the gun show. Safety is our Number One Priority, and a safe environment in the show can only be maintained if there are no loaded guns in the show.” Ironic, eh?) 

Should those efforts prove successful, we’ll need to continue to do anything we can to reduce the number of guns in circulation or access to guns and ammunition (Israel, for example, limits the number of bullets a person can buy in one year, as well as who can possess a gun). The Sacramento Bee wants a buyback program, among other things.

The National Rifle Association will fight us every step of the way, using the Second Amendment as a phony shield. On Monday, the radio show Marketplace quoted Lee Drutman of the Sunlight Foundation as saying that during the last election cycle, the NRA spent more than $24 million, dwarfing the paltry $5,816 spent by the nation’s largest gun-control organization.

In politics, money is what wields power. That’s why, if you want to help balance the scales, we suggest that you, to whatever extent possible, donate to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Correction: The original version of this editorial suggested that donations to the Brady Campaign are tax-deductible. They are not.

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