A boy stands amidst flags placed as a memorial to Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, in Woodbury, Conn. The flags were placed in front of Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury, Hochsprung's former school, which is across the street from the funeral home where her calling hours were held. Hochsprung was killed when a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Friday and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
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Updated: February 15, 2013 6:14AM
Sen. Dick Durbin got it just right Thursday when he said we’ve avoided the debate over sensible gun laws for too long.
Now that the horror of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., has revived that debate, it would be a dishonor to the memory of the 26 children and adults killed to allow it to fade away before firm protections are in place.
Signs of the urgent need to act are everywhere. According to a report released Wednesday, the widespread possession of firearms and the practice of storing them at home in unsecured areas is a major reason the United States suffers far more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation. Guns are a major reason American men ranked last in life expectancy in the 17 nations studied and women ranked second to last.
And there’s no let-up in the violence. On Thursday, a 16-year-old boy shot and wounded a classmate and fired two more rounds at students in a Taft, Calif., school. In Chicago, three people were killed and six others were wounded by gun violence from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, a grim start to a the new year after 506 homicides in 2012.
Gun-rights activists say they are trying to protect their Second Amendment rights and that any gun laws would put us on a slippery slope toward a ban on all guns.
But no one is seriously arguing that Americans be denied all rights to own guns. As for the slippery slope, we are on one now. It’s led us to looser and looser gun laws and more and more gun violence.
Several efforts are under way to turn this around. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he’s devising a gun-control ordinance for Chicago now that the Legislature has failed to pass an assault weapons ban. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle plans to introduce companion legislation covering the county. The laws would require firearms owners to report the loss, theft, destruction, sale or transfer of a firearm to both the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County sheriff’s office.
A task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden will present recommendations to President Barack Obama on Tuesday. In New York, which already has stricter gun laws than Illinois, lawmakers are hoping to pass new gun laws by next week.
There’s no shortage of ideas. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy wants Illinois to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require gun owners to report lost, stolen or transferred firearms, mandate criminal background checks before every gun sale and impose mandatory minimum penalties for carrying illegal firearms.
We know what to do. All of this makes sense. Let’s get it done.