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Editorial: Americans need to speak out on gun violence measures before Congress

Published: Friday, Mar. 29, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 12A
Last Modified: Friday, Sep. 27, 2013 - 3:23 pm

The conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., is that barely 100 days after the horror in Newtown, Conn., the momentum for gun control legislation has waned.

President Barack Obama gave an impassioned rebuttal to that defeatist notion Thursday. "The entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time it would be different," he said, surrounded by parents of shooting victims.

"Shame on us if we've forgotten," he added. "I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten."

He's exactly right. He's also right that it will take the voices of the American people to prod Congress into action on common-sense measures that could ease our gun violence epidemic while doing nothing to infringe on the rights of law-abiding, responsible gun owners.

These restrictions may not have stopped the shooters in Newtown and Tucson, Ariz., but new revelations in recent days are instructive.

On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza was able to kill 20 children and six adults inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in less than five minutes, firing 154 bullets from a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle. It is terrifying to think that the massacre could have been bloodier. The rifle was loaded with a 30-round magazine that had 14 rounds remaining, and he had three more 30-round magazines with him, according to search warrants released Thursday.

Obama wants to prohibit high-capacity magazines that have no reasonable civilian use. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has a ban on magazines of more than 10 rounds in her bill; it's also part of the well-crafted package offered by House Democrats' gun violence task force led by Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, a hunter and gun owner.

Jared Loughner, in the year before he killed six people and wounded 12 at a January 2011 event hosted by then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was clearly showing signs of worsening mental health. But he didn't get much help and was never diagnosed or referred for treatment, according to 2,700 pages of investigative documents released Wednesday.

The president seeks to increase access to mental health programs. Obama also is backing expanded background checks, covering purchases at gun shows and online, to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and convicted criminals.

This is overwhelmingly supported by the public, and there's absolutely no excuse for not approving it.

Obama is still advocating a renewed ban on assault-style weapons, but its prospects appear dim as the Senate prepares to start voting on gun legislation as soon as April 8.

The White House event was one of more than 140 around the country Thursday designed to counter the hold that the powerful pro-gun lobby has on Congress. The president called on Americans, especially gun owners, to press their representatives during the current congressional recess for further gun control.

"We've cried enough," Obama said. "We've known enough heartbreak. … Now is the time to turn that heartbreak into something real."

Lawmakers from the Sacramento region and the rest of California are holding public events. If you believe in measured steps on guns, now is the time to be heard.

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