, Salem, MA


December 22, 2012

Watson: A free society needs sane gun laws

We need to make some adjustments.

After the massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six women in Newtown, Conn., by a sick individual wielding a semi-automatic rifle, we need to take some steps that will reduce our losses in whatever shootings are next.

Let’s stipulate some facts first though, right up front, so that we’ll all know that we all know them. Then we can focus productively on possible changes to the status quo.

First, there will always be violence, murder, psychopaths, alienated shooters, and misuse of guns. No set of laws, however wise, will eliminate those realities.

Second, in America, citizens have a right to own firearms. Some people like that rule, others do not; but regardless, not every discussion about types of guns, background checks, permitting requirements, and gun safety is an attempt to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to own guns.

Third, every mass shooting of the past 30 years has been the result of more than one factor. No mass shooting is a consequence solely of easy access to guns, or access to semi-automatics, or because the shooter is mentally disturbed, or because he was bullied, or because his home environment is badly broken. In any murderer and his rampage, there is a mosaic of factors that combine to produce the horror. So our attempts to reduce the number of massacres will need to examine the possible roles of many elements.

And no matter how good our gun laws, how effective our mental health systems, and how whole our families and our society, there will always be shootings.

So our efforts today should be on making the reforms that we know will reduce the frequency and lethality of mass killing events.

When 20-year-old Adam Lanza literally shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, he was carrying what is essentially a military soldier’s assault rifle, a gun that was designed exclusively for the purpose of killing humans as rapidly and effectively as possible.

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