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School shooting should be ‘catalyst for change’...Anti-violence groups seek stricter gun laws

In the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting rampage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., the Coalition Against Violence, the Black Political Empowerment Project and CeasefirePA held a news conference to call on local, state and national governments to enact more stringent gun laws.

“As organizations, which have been attempting to reduce the impact of violence in the Metropolitan Pittsburgh area, and beyond, we are heartened by the comments of President Barack Obama who in recent statements has indicated a willingness, and indeed the need, to confront the violence which has become much too commonplace in the United States of America,” said B-PEP President Tim Stevens at the Dec. 18 press event. “We were encouraged to learn of the President’s apparent desire to confront the uncomfortable politics of attempting to change gun laws in America.”

Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old with a history of emotional and mental problems killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life. He had murdered his mother, with whom he lived and who owned the guns used, earlier that morning. He carried three different weapons during the assault: a Glock 9mm pistol, a 10mm Sig Sauer pistol and a .223 caliber Bushmaster rifle. Medical examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver II said the rifle was the primary weapon used, and called the injuries to the dead “the worst (he’d) ever seen.”

Stevens said one of the best ways to counter this kind of violence would be to start with a renewal of the federal assault-style weapons ban. The previous ban, in affect between 1994-2004, outlawed the manufacture and sale to the public of semi-automatic version military rifles such as the AK-47, TEC-9 and M-16. The Bushmaster is one of the latter.

US Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has already vowed to introduce new and more extensive gun ban legislation when congress reconvenes in January.

“It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession. Not retroactively but prospectively,” she said on Meet The Press, Dec. 16. “And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets. So there will be a bill.”

And though it cannot trump the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment, the UN Small Arms Treaty, ostensibly designed to curb the international weapons trade, in its current form, would require signatory countries to:

•Ban the trade, sale and private ownership, of all semi-automatic guns;

•Confiscate and destroy all “unauthorized” civilian firearms, and

•Create an international gun registry.

A new round of negotiations on the treaty is scheduled for March and President Obama has indicated his support.

Speaking at a memorial service for the victims, the president said more should be done.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” he said. “These tragedies must end. And to end them, we have to change. ”

Valerie Dixon, co-convener of the Coalition Against Violence, who lost her son to gun violence, said the level of grief the parents of those children is beyond belief for most people.

“But it’s not for me. The real tragedy is that it seems to take the deaths of 20 children to make America wake up,” she said. “But we have people losing their children to guns every day. When these gun laws were written no one envisioned AK-47s on the street.”

CeasefirePA spokesman Rob Conroy called the Newtown shootings heartbreaking.

“Like everyone else, we are still trying to process this tragedy,” he said. “We re trying to see how it relates to our policy proposals but our focus on keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people is paramount. And right now we’re trying to foster some leadership on this from our local state and federal politicians.”

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