I'll be the first to admit that the shooting in Connecticut cannot trace its cause to a single origin. It's not solely because the mental health system is broken and Adam Lanza slipped through its many cracks. It's not entirely because guns have become ingrained in American culture. And this means preventing future tragedies will require many solutions. But a ban on assault weapons should be the first place we look for a solution.
The ban on assault weapons, which expired under Bush in 2004, was admittedly imperfect and wouldn't, in itself, prevent all tragedies of this kind. The specific assault weapon used by Lanza, for instance, would still have been legal to puchase, while other similar models would have been illegal. But drafting new legislation to deter access to all assault weapons, even if it only prevents one mass shooting, is absolutely worthwhile.
While I personally would prefer a complete ban on guns (to quote Bill Maher, “Stop saying we have to protect hunters - why? There's food in stores now.”), it's clear that will never happen. It's morbidly ridiculous, however, to suggest teachers should begin carrying guns or that schools be turned into maximum security style prisons rather than the more obvious, sensible solution of reigning in an out of control gun culture.
It's also ridiculous to suggest that because these sort of violent attacks have happened in countries with tight gun restriction, there's no point in trying to enact some form of legislation. Almost as if to prove the point, a mentally ill Chinese man wounded 23 students with a knife the same day of the Connecticut shooting. While some gun advocates have used this to say, “See, violence happens everywhere, it's not just us” or to suggest the sole culprit is mental illness, the difference is that the 23 Chinese children are still alive. Turns out it's much harder to kill large numbers of people with a knife.
And what about massacres in Norway, Germany, or anywhere else for that matter? Most of these countries have strict gun control measures, to be fair. The point, though, is not that a ban on assault weapons will prevent everything. A ban on assault weapons would be no more fool proof than the ban on heroin or the ban on travel to Cuba. But if a ban prevented even one mass shooting, I would hope second amendment advocates could agree to its merit.
The point is that gun advocates need to start facing facts. It's completely selfish to oppose an assault weapons ban on the basis that it's a slippery slope, that it's the first step toward prying that gun out of your cold, dead hands. It's the same stupid reasoning Democrats use to argue against regulations on abortion, which similarly need to be made.
Rather, I'd urge people to stop pretending they have cold, dead hearts. As the NRA put it, we are all mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. And I won't dispute that you have the right to protect your family, you have the right to kill Bambi, you have the right to believe the government might one day attack you, and you have the right to defend yourself from rabid coyotes in middle-of-nowhere Texas, but an assault weapon is not required for any of the above.
The idea that fixing the mental health system (not a simple task either) is the be-all end-all is nonsense. We are a violent society and so are all the other societies we share this world with. For some reason, though, America has become a perfect storm for more tragic violence than most. One step (and I would kindly request it be the first) is to begin dismantling the ease with which people legally acquire extremely dangerous weapons.