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Hake: Doing nothing about guns not an option

Here we go again. Another day, another mass killing. I don't know about you, but I'm totally fed up with seeing innocent Americans slaughtered by evil people with murder in their hearts and weapons of mass destruction in their hands.

Every time this happens, we spend a few days wringing our hands and trying to figure out what to do about it, and it inevitably devolves into an argument about gun rights that goes nowhere.

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I've been having an interesting conversation on Facebook about this issue. Good-hearted people on both sides of the debate have participated, and we've actually remained civil. There is passion on both sides, and although I hold different views, I now better understand where my gun-rights-supporting friends are coming from.

I suspect one of their biggest fears is that if they give an inch, the federal government will take a mile. Although I focus solely on the idea of banning assault weapons, my gun-loving friends assume this would mean they'd lose all gun rights. And then the bad guys will take over, because criminals will always find a way to have guns.

We can't hardly have a productive conversation on this subject because gun-rights supporters don't trust the government to do the right thing. Not surprising.

But doing nothing is not an option, because the problem of terrorism and mass murder is only going to keep getting worse. Despite tough words from Donald Trump, it will not be possible to eliminate every terrorist. It's an ideology that isn't going away any time soon.

So far we haven't been very good at predicting attacks. In the Orlando attack, there were warning signs, but they went nowhere. Maybe we need to tighten up how we respond to warning signs. But that's difficult, because in the United States we generally try to protect peoples' privacy and assume they are innocent until proven guilty, which are two things that have helped make America great. We want to be — and should be — the "good guys," even while dealing with bad guys.

Mental illness is another can of worms. Adam Lanza, who shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook, was clearly mentally ill. But there are strong protections in this country for people with mental illness. Unless they are a danger to themselves or others, they can't be forced to get treatment. Lanza's mother must have seen the signs but didn't do anything. Maybe we need to relax the laws a little that protect mentally ill people, but it's easy to see how that could ruin innocent lives.

That leaves only one option: trying to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. It was too easy for Omar Mateen to buy the Sig Sauer MCX that was capable of firing 24 shots in 9 seconds. That's not right. No individual should have that kind of power over the lives of other people.

An assault weapons ban was instituted in 1994 and allowed to expire in 2004. In 2004, we weren't seeing the level of terrorism we are today or so many mass killings. Maybe it's time to take another look at the assault weapons ban.

There's no need to threaten the gun rights of decent, law-abiding people, but they may need to compromise on this a little. Does any civilian really need to own a weapon designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest time possible? These weapons should be limited to military use. They are killing machines. Why make things easy for terrorists?

Banning assault weapons in the United States would probably not stop the mass killings. But if it would mean a terrorist could only kill a dozen people instead of 49, isn't it worth a try?

Grieving the lost and continuing to do nothing is not an option any more.

Judy Hake writes from Union Bridge.

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