The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a painful wakeup call on the gun violence that occurs daily in this country. A crazed gunman mowed down 20 young children and six women in that lethal rampage. New legislation is urgently needed to stem this horrific, bloody tide.
President Obama has launched an assault on gun violence that is no threat to law-abiding citizens and their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The president has commissioned a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden to take action on stricter gun control laws, and he has made it crystal clear that inaction is not an option. When one considers that since the Newtown massacre another 500 lives have been lost to gun violence, the need to take swift and certain action could not be more apparent. We simply can’t wait any longer. This is about protecting citizens and saving lives, which is the primary role of government.
Making gun laws more restrictive in this country will not come without a fight. Already on the second anniversary of the 2011 killing of six people and the serious wounding of then Congresswoman Gabby Gifford in Tucson, Ariz., the powerful and well funded National Rifle Association has called a news conference to announce its Gun Appreciation Day. Guess when this Gun Appreciation Day is scheduled? On the day we remember the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose name is synonymous with nonviolence. Ironically, Dr. King’s life was snuffed out in the most violent way—an assassin’s bullet fired from a rifle. This call for a national Gun Appreciation Day is the height of insensitivity at the very least, not to mention disrespecting the memory of a man who sought justice and equality for all humankind.
Why can’t we wait for tougher gun control laws? Consider this: With two days left in December 2012, the Chicago Police Department’s official homicide records listed exactly 500 homicides. City officials in the Second City have blamed their killing field on the availability of illegal guns. While Chicago struggles with a proliferation of homicides, in 2012 New York had one of its least violent years in recent history. The reason? New York has implemented bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, something that Illinois does not consider.
While we in DeKalb County have mercifully been spared any mass murders, gun violence is still a menace. We have had shootings at houses of worship, on the streets, in the parking lots of malls and other places where large numbers of people gather. We made national news last year with a fatal shooting at a funeral! Tougher gun laws are not a panacea or magic bullet, so to speak. But, just as other civilized nations have demonstrated, stricter gun control goes a long way toward lowering homicide rates from gun violence. Meanwhile, the United States leads the world in violent gun deaths.
Georgia lawmakers will be soon back under the gold dome for the 2013 legislative session. Sensible, tougher gun laws should top their agenda. Law abiding citizens going about our daily lives must be protected from criminals and others deemed mentally unfit to have guns.
Our leaders are coming together around the country from Washington to Wilmington to arrive at solutions for this crisis of gun violence. It is high time the NRA offered some real solutions and stopped targeting concerned, well intentioned lawmakers in their crosshairs.
Prayerfully, the political climate has changed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy to offset the NRA and other naysayers. It must be recognized that not every gun regulation bill is a threat to our right to bear arms. Reasonable people must come up with reasonable regulations. We can no longer wait.
Steen Miles, The Newslady, is a retired journalist and former Georgia state senator. Contact Steen Miles at Steen@dekalbchamp.com.