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Letters to the Editor: A Public Forum
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 • Posted December 19, 2012 • Updated December 19, 2012 11:41 AM

What happened in Newtown was an absolute horror which I feel could have been prevented. I do not have all of the answers, but they are out there. We just have to work to find them.

With every right there are limits. As a country we need to have this discussion, and we need to find workable solutions. We should not let this opportunity slip by yet again. It would be an insult to the victims of the Newtown tragedy and all of the tragedies preceding it. When an Al Queda operative takes off his shoes and tries to light a bomb on an airplane, the result is we all have to take our shoes off at the airports. If the shooter in Newtown had been from Al Queda, we would be bombing a country right now. But what happens when there's a massacre of innocents by a gun toting American - nothing. Evil triumps when good people do nothing

If in the end the solution makes it harder for a person to buy a gun, so what. By doing nothing, yet another massacre occurs. We will never be able to prevent them all, but tougher licensing can prevent some innocents from being massacred, and who could possibly be against that.

Some people will have a problem with this. They'll say that the odds of being killed in a mass shooting are rarer than winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning. I really don't care for that line of argument. What happened in Newtown is a rare event (but not so rare in the past few weeks), but its effect on the American people is too devastating to ignore. What happened in Newtown is not an acceptable byproduct of our rights.

One possible solution out there is universal gun licensing. Once every two years, everyone who wants to own a gun or already owns one should have to submit to some basic training firearms handling certification, a criminal background check, and a mental health examination. If you pass them, you will be given a 24 month gun license. Also, in order to get a license for a gun, you need to show you have the ways and means to keep your guns out of the hands of juveniles and criminals. You have to prove your capabilities to get a driver's license, so why not the same for gun licenses.

Many gun enthusiasts will stop right there and say, "But I don't want the government to have a list of gun owners! That's the first step to confiscation!" That argument may have been valid 20 years ago, but it's not today. Nowadays it should be easy to build a one-way authentication system that allows licenses to be verified without the government being able to identify individuals, plus a way to flag the authorities if someone on the "can't buy list" attempts to purchaser one. Plus this would apply to all gun purchases, be they gun shows or private sales. No loopholes allowed whatsoever.

Anyway, once we have authenticated licensing in place, we make the possession of a firearm without a license a major felony with 10 years first-offense. The idea here is simple. We determine which citizens can actually handle firearms safely and are sane enough to do so, and we give them a license. People who don't commit crimes don't need to be treated like criminals. Anyone who doesn't pass the licensing process gets denied. Plus it would be great if we had a better mental health system so mentally ill people seeking guns could get some help, instead of being shunted aside.

Here's for all you folks concerned about your Second Amendment rights. The Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have the right to bear arms, but it also ruled the government has the right to "regulate" such possession. Take a look at one of the pictures of the victims of the Newtown shooting and multiply it by 119,079, and that's how many children have been killed by gun violence since 1979 (when records of this type first started being kept). That's more than the total number of American deaths in Vietnam. There's a war going on in America. Its name is gun violence, and it's a cancer eating away at the soul of America. Add together all the gun deaths in the 23 wealthiest countries in the world and 80 percent of those are American deaths. Of all the children killed by guns in those nations, 87 percent are American kids. Yes, we're #1 by leaps and bounds.

Again, what happened in Newtown was an absolute horror. How many more innocents have to be sacrificed on the "altar" of guns before anything is done?

Julie Alford

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