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Mitch Edelman: Time to take action on gun control

A line in a Bob Dylan song reads, "how many deaths will it take ...?"

A week has passed since the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We have started the long process of moving past our grief and outrage and are coming to grips with the shootings that ended the lives of 28 people, 20 of whom were first-graders. Anyone not living in a cave knows the details: a solitary deranged gunman killed his mother, forced his way into a Newtown, Conn., school, opened fire, murdered 26 people, and then killed himself.

Tragic events such as this occur with disturbing regularity. ABC News reported that at least 31 shootings at schools have occurred since the Columbine massacre. After each of them we are left to wonder how they might have been prevented.

Short of an intrusive police state, we cannot eliminate these horrors completely. But there are some steps we need to take to reduce their likelihood.

First, we must treat mental illness with the same level of concern as we have for other illnesses. A person with severe bipolar disorder or depression, for example, is as much in need of medical treatment as someone with diabetes, but we treat mental illness as being less important. Adam Lanza's killing spree might not have occurred had the signs of his mental state been recognized earlier. Any attempt to deal with violence in our society must include better ways to identify and help those with mental illness.

Next, the laws governing the availability of firearms are completely inadequate. It is altogether too easy to buy and to move firearms across state lines.

Each state has its own set of laws governing firearms purchase, registration, assault weapon ownership and "peaceable carry." It's easy to get around restrictive laws in states like Maryland or Connecticut just by going to a neighboring state to buy guns and ammunition.

Tough federal laws that apply uniformly throughout the country are needed.

We must reinstate the assault weapons ban and laws to limit the size of ammunition clips to 10 rounds. We must eliminate the manufacture and sale of ultra-high-capacity ammunition clips for non-military use. We must close the notorious gun-show loophole in background checks on gun purchasers.

At this time, public opinion, even among a large segment of NRA members, favors taking action to make it harder to purchase weapons like the AR-15, the rifle used both in Newtown and Aurora. Gun sellers like Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods have either stopped advertising or selling these rifles.

The political will to take action is there, but will Congress act?

Just this Tuesday, one of the NRA's drones, Texas rep. Louie Gohmert said, "The Democrats are trying to slap a Band-Aid on an area that's not even a wound."

He had previously said that more guns would have averted the Aurora massacre. Perhaps he thinks the cure for drunk driving is more booze.

The NRA says that laws restricting gun sales don't actually stop gun violence, so they should be rescinded.

This is nothing other than a call for anarchy. We need better, not fewer enforcement mechanisms.

Reducing the availability of guns saves lives. Before the Supreme Court overturned the DC gun ban, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the ban was linked to a 25 percent drop in gun-related murders.

The NRA says that gun ownership helps people defend themselves at home. If this were so, Adam Lanza's mother would not have died from her own guns, at her son's hand.

The NRA says that guns don't kill people, people kill people. This is only half-true: guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people.

Perhaps it's time to update that Dylan song. "How many more deaths will it take ...?"

And no matter what your thoughts on gun control are, wishing you a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

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