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Assault weapons, why?


   How heartbreaking, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.
   Nothing makes a person feel more helpless than when worrying about the safety of their children when there's little they can about it. Parents throughout the nation were sick to their stomachs all weekend thinking about sending their kids back to school on Monday.
   As a dad of a kindergartener, I appreciated what the 509-J district did on Sunday: a robo-call to parents from Superintendent Rick Molitor, and an email from the district as well, noting their vigilance for safety and an openness to parents and students to discuss issues of safety.
   The shooting reinvigorates calls for the strictest security measures at schools. Sandy Hook, though, had one of the most secure systems in place, where visitors needed to be recognized and buzzed in. But the shooter simply broke a window and busted through. Even the best systems aren't foolproof, but maybe the delay of having to bust in, and the alarm it may have caused, saved lives.
   While school security is a re-engaged topic, the strongest ripple from last Friday's tragedy is the talk to strengthen gun laws. In the aftermath, even fervent gun advocates seem to be open to the concept of better controlling semiautomatic weapons -- and stronger gun control laws in general.
   I don't want to come across as a far-left gun-hater. I'm neither. But I keep waiting to hear one good reason why assault weapons, or military-grade semiautomatics, need to be made available for private use. There is no sporting need for such a weapon.
   America, at its core, is about freedom. Guns advocates use the jewel of freedom as their main argument to battle almost any type of gun control. But we should also be free, or much better protected, against some deranged person using his or her freedom to find an assault weapon to slaughter people and conduct domestic terrorism.
   Gun rights advocates have long breathed the mantra of the domino theory -- show any weakness on the issue, give in on one gun control element, then all guns will be at risk of government confiscation -- as if taking hunting rifles is the next step. While that may be a great rallying cry, it fails the reality test.
   Our country had a ban on assault weapons for a period, up until 2004, when it was (for some inane reason) allowed to expire. Now, many semiautomatic weapons are legal, and the one used by the Newtown shooter was legally owned by his mother. But what happened with that "legal" gun proved why such weapons should be illegal.
   Members of the National Rifle Association, sportsmen and women, should back realistic gun laws that focus on protecting sporting uses and realistic personal and property protection. There simply is no good reason to have large-clip semiautomatic weapons available for private use in this country, legal or otherwise.
   I don't claim to be a gun rights, gun laws or gun expert of any kind, but doesn't common sense dictate that we do something? Reinstating of the assault weapons ban seems like a good place to start.
   Violent movies and video games, the general sensory saturation of the electronic age, they all play a role in a more violent, dangerous society. But, my God, America needs to become a less violent society. It's 2012, not 1876. It time our leaders -- and the hugely powerful gun-rights lobby and the many good people it represents -- rethink what intelligent gun policy should entail.