My heart is broken today. Just last Thanksgiving, my family visited Newtown for their annual Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk. The town was quaint and peaceful, and the people I encountered seemed close knit. Today, I was shocked to learn that twenty innocent, beautiful little children were brutally and savagely executed in that very same place. I am truly overwhelmed with grief and sadness.
In recent years, we have unfortunately heard this story far too often. Today, twenty young children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown. Earlier this week, a gunman open fire in a shopping mall in Oregon. Before that, tragedy struck a temple in Wisconsin and a movie theater in Aurora. The Virginia Tech shootings brought to light the vulnerability of our college students. And every day, we hear of violence in the streets of our big cities and feel isolated from these tragedies, but today, it became clear that this can happen in any town, mall, or theatre in any city in the country.
I know I am left asking myself how this can continue to happen in America?
A couple of years ago, Jared Loughner walked into the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson, Arizona, to purchase a Glock 19. When he purchased that gun, he had every right to walk out the legal owner of the semi-automatic handgun. But then he used that weapon to kill six innocent people and wound more than a dozen during an attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. That’s when we all questioned that sale.
Current U.S. gun laws provided no reason to prohibit the transaction. But it seems clear to me that its time to step up and do something to prevent these senseless tragedies in the future. There must be a way to find some answer to the problem without violating the Constitution’s Second Amendment. Twenty seven words in the Constitution, “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,” have been debated since those words were put down as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. While I agree that these words mean Americans have the right to bear arms, I think Congress had it right in 1994 when they enacted a temporary ban on the sale of certain assault weapons.
That ban, among other things, prohibited the sale of high capacity ammunition clips that carried more than 10 rounds. When the ban came up for expiration in 2004, Congress did not renew it. As a result, Loughner was able to purchase magazines that carried over 30 bullets per clip, allowing him to empty a full clip into a crowd in approximately 15 seconds.
Does the Second Amendment really mean that all Americans have the right to own assault weapons or semi-automatic handguns?
Perhaps we need to seek another ban on certain weapons, a ban on high capacity clips, or background checks that identify and prohibit convicted felons and anyone adjudicated as mentally defective, or anyone who has ever been committed to any mental institution, from purchasing guns.
Either way, it’s important to remember that the right to own a weapon in America is not absolute and today, the only absolute is that this debate needs to re-opened.