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Editorial Roundup: Newtown demands USA changes

Published 9:03am Thursday, December 20, 2012

The horrific events Friday in Newtown, Conn., leave no doubt: America must change both its approach to guns and its approach to diagnosing and treating mental health issues.

Neither change will be easy. Neither change will happen overnight. And neither change will be a cure-all for gun violence. That said, there are 26 more reasons — including 20 dead schoolchildren — crying out that this is the time to start making substantive changes.

Those changes can begin immediately by re-instituting the federal ban on assault-style rifles that was in place from 1994-2004. Whether you’re talking about the shooting sports or big-game hunting, these weapons — along with firearms utilizing high-capacity clips — serve no reasonable purpose in America’s gun culture.

Yes, Second Amendment advocates might object to these measures. The truth is, though, they do nothing to erase the right to bear arms. They simply regulate the kind of weapons people can own. And such regulations have long been the role of government, whether it involves freedom of speech, the right to vote or a kindergartner’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Look no farther than automobiles. Laws govern everything from turn signals to speed limits — all meant to save lives without restricting rights. Legislation for guns should take the same approach.

Similarly, serious consideration should be given to regulating the kind and amount of ammunition people can purchase. After all, lawmakers regulate how much cold medicine a person can buy to prevent drug crimes. Why not apply that same standard to bullets?

Again, those are first steps. More can and should be done.

On the guns front, America should heed suggestions about creating a balanced national commission to review gun laws not just here but in other countries.

Topics to be addressed should include education, training, registration and enforcement of laws. What works? What doesn’t? And how can lawmakers find a balance between the Second Amendment and preventing the next Sandy Hook tragedy?

The same approach should be taken in examining how America diagnoses and treats mental health issues. Gather national and international experts and have them examine what works and what doesn’t. Ask them to craft a reasonable approach to addressing mental illnesses and how to educate the public on the importance of this issue.

And perhaps most important of all, look beyond the 50 states — and likely 50 different approaches in America — to what other nations do to prevent the tragic mix of mental illness and access to deadly weapons.

— St. Cloud Times, Dec. 17