Friday’s horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, is just the latest in a series of mass shootings in a country that makes it too easy to buy guns, carry guns and use guns. Federal law and most state laws allow the purchase and amassing of semiautomatic weapons with the most meager of limitations, and some state laws encourage the carrying of firearms in heavily populated environments and encourage their use whenever an individual feels threatened. Surely the idea that we should have a proliferation of firearms to protect ourselves is rendered an absurdity when elementary school children are mowed down. That carnage was inevitable, as are many more to come if measures are not taken to curb the ease with which unstable individuals can purchase and collect all the arms and ammunition they desire.
While no one law would have prevented all of these mass shootings, there is much that can be done to regulate firearms, consistent with the Second Amendment, to make it harder for potential mass murderers. We can start by re-instituting the ban on assault weapons and broadening the definition to include other weapons whose primary purpose is not for hunting and self-defense. Indeed, the major purpose of assault and other military-type weapons is to shoot many people in a short period of time. We also need tighter limitations on sales, notably on the secondary market for firearms, on “straw purchases” by eligible people for individuals not legally eligible to obtain firearms and on high-capacity ammunition magazines. The illegal flow of guns between states needs to be staunched. Ammunition needs to be marked to allow it to be traced if used in crimes. There should be a private right of action to create liability for someone who sells a firearm in violation of law, and there are other sound provisions that should be considered. And all of these should be effectively enforced.
How many more young children have to be murdered before we come to our senses?