The best place to start is to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban that was in place between 1994 and 2004, when it was allowed to expire.
California has a ban on assault weapons.
In a society where guns are allowed, people will always be able to shoot people, justified or not. But there's no reason to make it so easy for the deranged or disturbed to be able to shoot dozens of people - or deer, or elk - dozens of times. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been at the forefront of the failed effort to restore reasonable legislation to curb assault weapons 12 times since it expired in 2004. On Friday she immediately launched a new effort, which she will introduce when the Senate reconvenes next month. This ban will include bans on high-capacity bullet magazines.
Congress should adopt the ban - and make it permanent.
Supporting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not require embracing an armed-camp America with a bazooka under every bed. To agree that it is deranged people who commit such slaughter, and that a nation can't pretend to outlaw evil, does not require knuckling under to the crazy proposition that nothing can or should be done to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Isthis taking advantage of tragedy? Not at all. It's a rational response to the massacre of 20 small children and eight adults in Newtown, Conn. last week. Action is required to confront the awful reality.
California bans assault weapons, but Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said Monday he would introduce a measure to close a loophole in the state law that allows a simple modification to turn a legal semiautomatic gun into an assault weapon.
The next step is to close the gun-show loophole. Weapons sellers have gotten around the National Instant Criminal Background Check System since its creation in 1998 by allowing gun purchasers to avoid background checks when they buy at a gun show instead of from a store.
That's an insanely large hole in the law. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., proposes banning all sales without background checks no matter where they are purchased. Lautenberg cited Adam Gadahn, an American-born member of al-Qaida, urging on terrorists in a video: "America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely, without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?" Close the hole.
And, perhaps the most important piece is dealing with mentally ill people. Behind most of these American massacres that plague us is someone with a mental illness.
Certainly we need to mobilize to create a better system of care for disturbed people before they can harm anyone. And that includes stronger laws allowing society to isolate from the rest of us. Let's begin to engage that process as well.
Modernizing gun laws and improving mental health care are steps on the path President Obama announced at the Newtown memorial: "We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change."