This time, let's really talk about guns | Editorial

20 first-graders

Ages 6 and 7

All dead.

It's been a week now since the senseless tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot and killed those students and six adults. Earlier he had killed his mother.

Why? We'll probably never know.

About Newton.

About Virginia Tech.

About Clackamas Town Center.

About Aurora, Colo.

About Columbine.

Even more – how do we stop it?

We've always had people among us who unexpectedly lash out in a violent manner. Only now, a larger population means there's many more of them. And access to modern weapons makes their outbursts so much more lethal.

There are calls to ban guns, as there always are in these cases. That isn't likely to happen. Our Constitution guarantees us the right to bear arms. But does it guarantee us the right to buy almost any gun and own as many as we can afford? Isn't that a case of overkill, to use a word that now has such a darker, evil meaning.

Of course it is.

We in the newspaper industry cherish the First Amendment, the right to freedom of speech. But even though it is the "first" amendment, it is not an absolute right. A person can't, as courts have ruled, yell "fire" in a crowded theater. The result would be chaos – and likely death.

Why, then are we so lenient with guns?

Yes, background checks sometimes are required. But Adam Lanza didn't buy the guns he used; his mother did – and they were legal.

And, no, people can't possess fully-automatic weapons. But guns today – even the semi-automatic ones – possess such firepower that they can kill a large number of people in mere seconds. That's exactly what happened in Newtown.

Those who champion the Second Amendment – and, again, we're not calling to obliterate it from the Constitution – often say that the possession of guns deters crime. People think twice before attacking a well-armed citizen. Even if all the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary had a sidearm strapped to their hip, would someone like Adam Lanza be deterred? Hardy.

President Obama, speaking hours after the shooting summed up the situation:

"As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

Let's start now.



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