OTHER OPINION: Don’t forget; act soon on gun control

By The Hartford Courant

Stay angry. Remember how you felt this weekend. Don’t let the faces of those children go until meaningful, actual steps are taken to make this a safer and less violent country.
Connecticut residents were still reeling Sunday from the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Friday by a young man who also killed his mother and himself.
President Obama came to Newtown Sunday and said we can no longer tolerate these mass shootings, we must change, we surely can do better.
His press officer had said Friday that now was not the time to talk of policy responses such as gun control. We disagree; now is exactly the time, before we fall back into a collective stupor in which we don’t do anything but hope it doesn’t happen again.
Improving mental health services is fine; it’s just not clear that it would stop many mass killings. Mental health services are notoriously unavailable in inner cities, until people who need them get to prison. But Adam Lanza, the Newtown killer, and some other mass killers have been young men without criminal records.
They are eccentrics, loners, odd ducks. But good Lord, there are millions of such people who pose no threat to anyone.
The primary focus has to be on comprehensive gun laws; on making it more difficult for potential killers to get guns.
To get guns under control, we start with laws. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen.-elect Chris Murphy acknowledged Sunday that “people want us to do something.” Correct. The Connecticut delegation should introduce a bill to go after the relatively obvious and reasonable steps: assault weapons ban, universal background checks, no high-capacity magazines. The National Rifle Association leaders will object. To hell with them. The right to public safety trumps the right to own an arsenal.
In addition to laws, let’s start a public education campaign.
We changed people’s minds about smoking and reasonable limits on the practice. Education and reasonable limits on gun ownership can begin to end the Wild West mentality about guns and treat shooting as what it is – an extremely serious public health problem. That is how we have to change.
The Hartford Courant