In response to the senseless and horrific mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last week, there has been a passionate and reactive cry for gun control in the United States. On the other hand, Second Amendment rights activists and gun owners can have also suggested if the teachers and staff were armed with guns, they may have been able to shoot and kill the murderer, preventing many (and maybe all) of the killings.
Neither are likely outcomes of any debate on gun control versus gun rights. Drastic measures such as arming school staff are definitely going too far, just as any attempt to amend the Constitution is. Forbidding law-abiding citizens to own and carry guns is a non-starter.
So what can be done?
Appearing on NBC’s "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) vowed to introduce a bill re-instating the federal ban on assault weapons when Congress resumes in January. This was not “news.” Sen. Feinstein is a fierce anti-gun advocate and made the same promise during a speech at the Democratic National Convention this past September. (And it should be noted that she was a co-sponsor of the original Assault Weapons Ban legislation signed in 1994.)
Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban, which made it illegal to either manufacture or sell ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, expired in 2004. Because almost all of the mass killers in recent years used guns with 15-round clips or more (the Colorado movie theater shooter had a 100-round magazine!), this sounds like it could have new legs. But having Sen. Feinstein introduce this legislation is sure to ignite the NRA into action in an attempt to block and defeat it.
In fact, immediately after the 2012 elections, the NRA issued notice that they will once again stand in any anti-gun legislators’ way by launching an all-out campaign via their allies in the Congress and Senate.
But the NRA may not be as strong as it once was. While they can claim many 2012 Congressional and Senate victories, they clearly failed on a national level. They campaigned hard against President Obama — and Obama won.
Other options include tightening the rules for background checks to include private sales as well as those by licensed dealers. Checks could also go further in digging into an applicant’s mental health records, and punishments for those who violate those requirements could be made much more severe.
But it is the NRA that needs to act. It must be proactive on some sort of initiative to make it more difficult for people to obtain assault weapons. Guns may not kill people, but people who are mentally unbalanced and use them do. While bringing back the extended-clip ban wouldn't end mass shootings, it could lessen the human carnage caused by mass murderers.
Let’s hope that the NRA works with and not again former foes — even if they include Sen. Feinstein.