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A Somber Addendum to the Year-End Letter - The Tragedy at Newtown

The shooting deaths of twenty 5 and 6 year olds in the picture postcard New England town of Newtown added a grim post-script to 2012. There is little to say about this horrific act except that it is becoming a pattern. Yes, we are seeing a pattern of disturbed young men with arsenals of lethal weapons taking out their frustrations on the innocent and, in the case of Newtown, on the very innocent.

Our response can only be: make it as difficult as possible for such people to get weapons – particularly weapons that wreak extended carnage, i.e. assault weapons like the ones used in Newtown, Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech, and just a few weeks ago at a mall in Portland, Oregon where only two people were killed because the shooter’s AR-15 jammed.

Just as the Newtown killings are part of an increasingly frequent pattern, so there has been a pattern in our Nation’s response. We do nothing. Fear of the NRA and that organization’s fanatic members are enough to make most legislators both at the national and state level run for cover.

Who can blame them?  I remember attending a hearing in the state capitol in Augusta a few years ago.  A Committee was considering a law that would prevent those with restraining orders governing their contact with another – often a former spouse or girlfriend, from having a handgun.  The hearing room was jammed with NRA supporters who so intimidated the Committee that the bill never was even reported out.  A year later the legislation actually was passed but only after a highly publicized murder of a woman by her ex-husband who was subject to a restraining order at the time of the killing.

The story in Washington is much the same.  The ban on assault weapons, instituted in the Clinton Administration, was allowed to lapse during George W. Bush’s Presidency with little debate.

By now the tactics of the NRA in regard to mass killings are well-honed.  Lay low initially but work behind the scenes to prevent any proposed legislation from ever seeing the light of day in Washington and in state capitals.  Again, in spite of the increasing frequency of these kinds of senseless killings, the NRA has made sure to have enough of its allies mouth the usual bromides, such as:  “Guns don’t kill, people do.”  Eventually the furor dies down.

This latest set of killings of the tiniest of innocents in Newtown will hopefully convince a few courageous people to say: Enough!  Let us ban assault weapons.  Let us make it illegal for any so called gun dealer to circumvent the need for background checks and a waiting period before a gun may be purchased. 

This would be a start- a start toward putting America back on a path toward a responsible approach to the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms.

I am certain that the Founding Fathers are looking down on the violent society that has become America with shock and disbelief.  Where are the leaders?  What has become of the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

It is past time for the majority of decent, responsible Americans to be heard.