The recent shootings in Connecticut have reignited the gun control debate. An issue that has been muted for much of the past decade is once again at the forefront of political chatter. A week after the shootings, the nation's biggest gun lobby, the NRA, held a press conference in which they pushed armed guards at schools as the solution to the problem. A gun lobby pushed for more guns. Shocking.
We already know armed guards do not always work. Columbine had armed guards. The first step towards solving this problem is admitting that we can not completely solve the problem. Bad people will always find ways to cause harm. Our best bet is to try and limit the damage.
The most talked about method of preventing tragedies like those in Sandy Hook is bring back the assault weapons ban. While it would be a good start, a ban on assault rifles would not solve the problem. The ban does nothing for the millions of assault weapons that are already on the streets. A better solution is to regulate assault weapons like we regulate machine guns.
Machine guns can be purchased in certain situations, but doing so requires jumping through a lot of hoops. In order to preserve the rights of collectors, that is how assault weapons should be regulated. Such restrictions also strictly prohibit the sale or transfer of weapons between people. While transactions would still go on under the table, these restrictions would severely slow the flow of weapons. The same restrictions should apply to large clips.
As we attempt to come to grips with our gun obsessed culture, we must realize that more than just gun rights are at stake here. Those pushing for outright gun bans must realize the danger in pushing that agenda. The right to bear arms is a right enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Do we really want to set the precedent of taking away some of our basic rights? The Patriot Act has already crossed that line a time or two, as has the recent NDAA. We should not be in the business of giving away our rights so easily.
On the flip side, gun advocates must accept the difference between gun regulation and banning guns outright. As a society, we accept the regulation of machine guns. We also accept that it is illegal to manufacture plastic guns. Adding assault weapons to that list is not a stretch.
Those who argue they need those weapons to fight a tyrannical government are delusional. If the US military ever cracked down on its own population, an AR-15 would be of little use. With drones and cruise missiles, the US military can suppress a target without putting a boot on the ground. One can not fight these forces with assault rifles.
These sensible reforms, coupled with a campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues, could go a long way towards preventing tragedies like those in Newtown. The terrible nature of this recent tragedy may be the last straw that ignites change. A newly elected President Obama, with no more elections before him, has a chance to push for real change. After four years of ignoring the issue, the time is now.