Editorial: Time to look at gun laws and mental health services

Sun, 12/23/2012 - 3:11pm

Enough is enough.

For years, our national and state leaders have hedged and dragged their feet on gun control issues, not wanting to alienate a powerful political lobby.

A former Democratic president let a ban on assault weapons expire. President Obama is making noises but has taken no action, despite what are now four mass killings during his presidency.

The R.I. delegation, as well as the state Attorney General and the State Police Colonel, are now calling for a ban on automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It’s a no brainer; these weapons are meant for war, not for civilian use.

It is true that people kill people; guns do not kill people. But it’s also an oversimplification. The truth is that guns in the hands of the wrong people kill people — and that there are always going to be unstable people in our midst, and also irresponsible people who don’t keep their weapons out of other people’s reach.

We must do more to identify and help people with mental illness. But we also need to take a hard look at the gun laws that are already on the books — sure, guns are supposed to be kept locked up at home, but how can such a law be enforced? — and create at least one new one: a ban on the sort of weapons that render a shooter unassailable, that give victims no chance to fight back.

And let’s not forget: This may be a national issue, but it’s a local one, too. It’s a Block Island issue. Lots of people here have guns, and we support that — especially if they use them to shoot deer. No reasonable person wishes to restrict weapons used for hunting and sportsmanship. And no reasonable person requires automatic weapons for recreational use.

Over in South County, the two gun shops closest to Block Island reportedly sold out of AR15s and high capacity magazines this week, as fears of tighter gun laws spread. Protesters were planning to picket outside the shops with memorial wreaths for the innocents killed last week.

The flags are at still at half-staff for six-and-seven-year-old children, and those of us who are parents are struggling to find the words to explain to our children what happened at a Connecticut elementary school — and trying not to imagine the same thing happening here.

We need better gun control, and we need it now. Enough is enough.