A nation mourns

The first step is to reinstate the ban on assault weapons

The United States is grieving. Irrational violence took the lives of 20 elementary school children and six adults in a place where they expected to be safe. There is no rational explanation for this type of horror.

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has shaken a nation that has grown accustomed to gun violence, but never prepared for a tragedy of this magnitude.

News reports tell of victims’ parents whose only hope is that their children didn’t suffer, that they didn’t realize what was happening around them prior to the bullet that silenced their life.

A disturbed young man armed with revolvers and a semiautomatic rifle is the author of this nightmare. The country is in anguish.

There are those who argue that this is not the time to talk about guns nor debate policy. But if not now, when? When is the right time for this conversation? When the pain of this tragedy is replaced by dispassionate debate, theories about rights and interpretations of the Constitution led by the National Rifle Association?

In the United States it is extremely difficult —for a variety of reasons— to make any changes to our gun control laws. This doesn’t mean, however, that some rationality can’t be inserted into the realm of the irrational.

For example, so many innocent children were killed in such a short time because the attacker apparently used an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, modified for maximum destruction. This gun was originally created for military use during the Vietnam War and then marketed for civilian use along with other assault weapons.

In 1994 the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act prohibited the manufacture for civilian use of certain assault weapons including the AR-15. The law expired in 2004 and numerous efforts to reinstate it have been defeated. The bill’s author, Senator Diane Feinstein, intends to bring it forward again. The White House needs to take an active role in securing passage in Congress.

We can only hope that the pain that aches in our hearts will at the same time be the motivating force to ban assault rifles as has been done in the past. This isn’t asking too much after the loss of 20 first-graders innocently studying in their classrooms