, Salem, MA


December 22, 2012

Watson: A free society needs sane gun laws


Lanza wielded a rapid-firing, semi-automatic, Bushmaster AR-15, and he was therefore able to pump many bullets into many victims. One child had 11 bullets in her.

A semi-automatic will fire repeatedly as quickly as the shooter repeatedly pulls the trigger. And equipped with military-capable, 30-round magazines, as Lanza had, this rifle unleashes a hellish amount of nonstop firepower. For this reason, semi-automatics have been the choice of psychopaths intending to slaughter as many people as they can, in public places.

Think of the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo. (the movie theater); Tucson, Ariz. (Congresswoman Giffords); Virginia Tech (campus shootings); Columbine, Colo. (the high school). All done with military-style semi-automatic pistols and rifles.

So one area of reform looks promising. It is time to re-institute the outright ban on all assault rifles, and institute major restrictions on semi-automatic pistols and large magazines.

The gun show and private gun sales loopholes should be closed, too, so that any gun sale anywhere would require the same background checks, licensing, and review by local law enforcement.

Such regulatory reform would not prevent any law-abiding citizen from owning a gun, but it would make it much harder for a sick individual to procure the sort of firepower and ammunition necessary for semi-automatic carnage.

There will be those who oppose any further regulation. They will say that an armed society is a safer society; and that gun ownership is a defining indicator of a free society, and the ultimate guarantor of individual liberty.

But those gun advocates are unlikely to be able to describe the profound and legitimate need, and the complexities and difficulties, of reconciling degrees of personal liberty with the need to create a robust, safe, pluralistic, collective society.

Furthermore, it isn’t gun ownership that guarantees freedom and liberty; it is free speech and community. In fact, guns inhibit free speech, and — like survivalism — they encourage not community but the atomization and fragmentation of the population.

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