After Newtown: A state task force must not overlook guns
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The Legislature in Harrisburg has heard the cries concerning the slaughter of the innocents at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That is progress of a sort because Pennsylvania lawmakers tend to become deaf whenever reasonable suggestions are made in the wake of another gun-related massacre.
Not that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican from Montgomery County, is out there energized solely by assault rifles. He is proposing a time-tested bureaucratic strategy, the convening of a task force. While the task force will look at proposals to strengthen firearm regulations, it will also consider mental health laws and efforts to fight bullying.
"Many of you have been circulating cosponsorship memos for legislation that further restricts access to firearms," Mr. Greenleaf wrote to fellow senators in a memorandum. "These proposals are understandable, given the terrible tragedy ... and other mass shootings in recent months and years. However, it is my belief that further regulation of firearms is only part of the issue. Firearms are not the cause of violence; they are the instrument that is used. Ironically, Connecticut has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation but those laws did not prevent the Sandy Hook school tragedy."
A broad approach is fine and certainly mental health issues must be addressed. But it's important that the role of guns not be forgotten in the mix. For all the supposed toughness of the laws in Connecticut, none of the shooter's guns was illegal, including a semi-automatic assault rifle. Guns may be the instrument, but they shouldn't be so deadly as to permit multiple rounds fired quickly. Sheer firepower is the difference between killings and a massacre.
A task force that ignores the obvious in its recommendations is not going to be helpful. Given the antipathy in Harrisburg to doing anything about gun violence, the task force will be a sham if it doesn't keep guns the focal point of its comprehensive approach.
First Published January 2, 2013 12:00 am