EDITORIAL: Now is the time to address gun violence

No matter where you stand on the issue of gun control, one thing should be undeniable: now is the time to talk about our gun violence epidemic and what can be done about it.

Doing everything we can to prevent tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut and the movie theater shooting in Colorado from happening again should be a national priority.

To ignore the issue of gun violence is to say that having 8,000 firearm-related murders per year in the United States is acceptable. By any reasonable standard, it's not. Innocent people, especially children, don't deserve to die from the barrel of a gun.

That means all options should be on the table and discussed nationally. As Vice President Joe Biden's gun control task force prepares to make recommendations to President Barack Obama and the 113th Congress on Tuesday, certain ideas deserve special attention.

A ban on assault weapons, or at least much stricter regulations, must be considered. An assault weapon is not needed for personal protection or for hunting, so is there any need for one to be available for just about anybody to buy? Perhaps allowing assault weapons only on shooting ranges is a compromise that can bring gun control advocates and gun enthusiasts together.

Stricter background checks on individuals who seek to buy firearms and the elimination of loopholes that allow mentally unstable individuals to purchase guns must also be made law. No person in a rational mindset would seek to do such hideous things, so, by seeking to eliminate certain means of doing harm, one can hope gun-related fatality rates would drop.

That being said, it's also true that addressing guns is only one part of the solution. A person set on doing harm will find a way to do harm, with or without guns. That's why lawmakers need to address the nation's pitiful mental health system.

It's been well-documented the attention we give to mental health care facilities is lacking in this country, and a person's mental state is key when possessing a deadly weapon. Stricter psychiatric evaluations must also be instituted when individuals apply for gun permits.

It would be wise for the president to acknowledge many of these and act. We don't advocate for the complete banning of guns -- that's just not fair to those who abide by the laws and act responsibly -- but something needs to be done.


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