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article imageOp-Ed: Strike while the iron is hot on gun control and save lives

By Patrick Devaney     Dec 17, 2012 in Politics
Newtown - Another day, another gun-toting disaster in the United States of America as the nation comes to terms with the latest tragedy. But when your first thought upon this catastrophe is ''not again,'' you know there is something seriously wrong in this society.
Three at Clackamas Town Center in Happy Valley, Oregon. Seven at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. 12 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Six in a supermarket parking lot in Tuscon, Arizona. 13 at Fort Hood military base in Killeen, Texas. 33 at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. 10 at Beltway, across Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. 15 at Columbine High School, Columbine, Colorado.
And now 28 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
As US president Barack Obama read out the names of the latest victims of gun violence in America, he delivered a definitive conclusion on the issue of gun control with the compassion and emotion of a father but reinforced by the assertiveness, power and legitimacy a president holds.
''We must change.''
Of course, he was speaking about the gun laws in his country, which have been an integral part of the history of the US since the ratification of the United States constitution in 1791.
And after every single massacre, the same debate always crops up.
The second amendment. Can and will it be changed? And with the victims of Newtown, Connecticut in mind, why hasn't it been done before this devastation?
Before last Friday's unimaginable crime was committed, as clear and listed from above, massacres were not uncommon in the US. But when 20 children between the ages of six and seven were murdered in cold blood, grief and outcry consumed a nation of 315 million people. Perhaps nobody's devastation, with the exception of relatives and other people who personally knew the the victims, was more clear than that of President Obama. As he wiped away tears and promised change on gun laws, a new era looks set to dawn on the world's superpower.
Change is imminent on gun laws and should be embraced. The silence from the pro-gun side of the debate in the immediate aftermath was stunning. The National Rifles Association haven't tweeted for almost four days now. They usually tweet several times a day on Twitter. They have also deactivated their Facebook page after coming under attack from users of the site. 31 pro-gun senators were invited onto the NBC television show, ''Meet The Press.'' None of them accepted the invitation, the show's host David Gregory told the Huffington Post.
Since then two pro-gun Senators, on either side of the political divide, have commented on the shooting, with polarizing views. Senator Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas said of the heroic school principal Dawn Hochsprung, ''I wish to God she had had an M4 in her office.''
Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, the other pro-gun Senator gave his thoughts on the shooting as the stupidity of Sen. Gohmert's remarks were just ignored in light of the incident. Manchin's message was simple, progressive and logical as the lawmaker argued for a ''sensible, reasonable approach'' to limit the ease of access that people can get guns.
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California vowed to reintroduce a ban on assault weapons on the first day of Congress in 2013 as the tide turns in favor of greater gun regulation. With most of the 31 pro-gun senators set to return to Congress with their tails between their legs and the nation riding on a wave of anti-gun sentiment, a flurry of laws could be introduced early next year on trying to prevent such a tragedy ever affecting innocent people once again.
No matter what way you look at it, with gun laws in place, this would have been an entirely avoidable event.
But changing the laws won't definitely make these events totally unheard of in the future but at least it will certainly make them far less frequent. The immediate changes that these new laws bring about will be outdone by the change in culture and mentality towards firearms that, in the long-term, will be far more vital.
An example of a country changing its laws to help stop preventable deaths is the Republic of Ireland in 2002 when they introduced the penalty points system for driving offenses in 2002.
For such a small country, Ireland was becoming notorious for road deaths and in 1997, that number hit 472. The population at the time was just 3.7 million and out of these continually high numbers of road deaths, a strategy was born to reduce the amount of fatalities.
In 2012, 10 years after the introduction of the penalty points system and with the population having increased to over 4.6 million, road deaths are at an all-time low with the last five years giving record breaking numbers.
In 2011, the number of road deaths was 186, down more than 60% on the figure of 1997, just a mere 14 years earlier. As of December 14th 2012, the record is set to be smashed once again as the number currently stands at 155.
This change in mentality and culture among Irish drivers, instigated by the Road Safety Authority of Ireland, speaks volumes in how an alteration in laws can promote awareness in saving lives and personal responsibility.
In the award-winning drama series, The West Wing, a gun control debate was had. The man in favor of gun control delivered a knockout blow in the argument with the following quote:
"If you combine the populations of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Australia, you'll get a population roughly the size of the United States. We had 32,000 gun deaths last year. They had 112. Do you think it's because Americans are more homicidal by nature? Or do you think it's because those guys have gun control laws?"
So America, your time has come to evolve on gun control legislation. Strike while the iron is hot and make the new laws as comprehensive and watertight as possible.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Gun control, gun control legislation, barack obama gun control, gun control debate, newtown
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