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Another View -- Kathy Sullivan: We need to take the guns away now

January 01. 2013 10:39PM

The responses to the Newtown murders by those who oppose common-sense gun safety laws fall into five categories: more research, more enforcement, more guns, more treatment for mental illness and less violence in films and video games. This is not to say that everyone calling for research, guns and/or treatment also opposes common-sense restrictions. However, those who are opposed to restrictions are focusing on one or more of those five areas in an effort to thwart the will of the majority of Americans who believe that the time has come for action.

Those calling for research say we need to review existing laws and the data on mass shootings. Kelly Ayotte, who every day sounds more and more like Sarah Palin with a law degree, falls into the "thorough review" - delay and dilly-dally - camp. What she doesn't acknowledge is that ample research already is available. As reported in Mother Jones magazine, there have been at least 62 mass murders in this country since 1982. Of the 142 guns used, 68 were semiautomatic handguns and 35 were assault weapons.

In Australia, a 1996 law banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. There have been no mass gun killings since the law was adopted. Homicides involving firearms have dropped by 59 percent while suicides by firearms fell by 74 percent.

Do we seriously need more research to tell us that a law eliminating semiautomatic handguns and assault weapons would have a major impact on reducing these mass slaughters? Not really. And here is one other point about those calling for more research and data: Do you think the very same people who reject scientific research into climate change have suddenly developed a respect for scientific research?

As for more enforcement, 79 percent of the mass killers in the last 20 years obtained their guns legally. While better enforcement would be helpful, the easy availability under current law of equipment designed to kill on battlefields is killing kids. The only way to stop that easy availability is to outlaw them. Now.

Then there was the call for more guns just a week after the murder of so many innocents by the spokesman for an organization funded by gun manufacturers. The National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre is a man with so little self-awareness that he denounced the video game industry by saying, "There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people."

This is from a man whose organization, according to Businessweek, has received at least $14.8 million in seven years from firearms-related companies for just one donor program that started in 2005. This past April, Sturm, Ruger & Co. announced that its yearlong "1 Million Gun Challenge" had raised more than $1.2 million for the NRA. More than one million guns sold, and LaPierre has the audacity to talk about a callous, corrupt and corrupting industry selling violence against its own people!

I agree there is a ridiculous, possibly dangerous amount of violence in many video games and films. However, the attack by LaPierre is a disingenuous effort to divert focus from the role lax gun laws have played in the promulgation of assault-style and semiautomatic weapons. The sale of those films and video games is not limited to the United States. Weekly software sale charts show that for the week of Dec. 8, 2012, the bestselling video games in Europe included "Call of Duty: Black Ops" and "Assassin's Creed III." Yet, despite the prevalence of those games overseas and their popularity with our neighbors to the north ("Assassin's Creed" is made in Canada), the plague of mass shootings is concentrated in the United States.

As for mental illness, it unfortunately took this latest slaughter to get opponents of common-sense gun regulation to talk about mental health services. Here is one concrete step they can take if they are sincere: Support the expansion of Medicaid services made possible through the Affordable Care Act. It would provide more mental health services for many Americans who can't afford them today. And here in New Hampshire, they could, oh, maybe support increasing the cigarette tax to help fund Children Services. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

If we are serious about stopping these senseless attacks, then it is time we act to ban battlefield weapons from our streets. It is not time to talk, or research, or produce more guns, or blame games and movies or express faux concern about the mentally ill.

It is time for Ayotte, LaPierre and the rest of their friends to either get with the program or get out of our way. Today.

Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and a member of the Democratic National Committee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.

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