Commentary: Guns are the problem

The Kansas City StarDecember 17, 2012 


Barbara Shelly is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.

MBR — Kansas City Star/MCT

I wrote editorials after the Virginia Tech shooting and the debate then revolved around mental health and security. How could colleges better identify troubled students? Should access to campus be limited?

Now, after a person bent on carnage broke into a locked elementary school and killed 26 innocent people, the focus is on limiting people’s access to military-style weaponry.

That’s as it should be. We cannot turn every public place into a fortress against crazy people with guns. To suggest so defies the notion of “public.” And please don’t tell us that Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut would have been safer if the principal had stored a gun in her desk drawer. No startled school administrator with a handgun would be a match for an experienced shooter with a sniper rifle and multiple clips of ammunition.

As this news story indicates, police believe Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15, a civilian version of a military rifle. That kind of firearm was outlawed under the nation’s 1994 assault weapons ban, but Congress shamefully let that ban expire in 2004. The shooter in a random mass attack in a shopping mall in Oregon last week used a similar weapon.

As retiring U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said Sunday, “Assault weapons were developed for the U.S. military, not commercial gun manufacturers. This is a moment to start a very serious national conversation about violence in our society, particularly about these acts of mass violence.”

The rights of people who like to take high-powered weapons to shooting ranges should not trump the right of children to make it through a school day, or of shoppers to return him safely from a trip to a mall.

We need bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity clips that enable a shooter to kill people quickly and randomly. We need better tracking systems of everybody purchases weapons. Why is there a record of everything I order on Amazon, and no documentation of a person stockpiling an arsenal?

The major gun groups have been mostly silent since Friday. I look for them to try to get out in front of the debate by proposing some lukewarm, watered-down measures. Let’s not let them get away with it. We need substantial gun safety measures and we need them right away.

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