The murders of 20 kids and six adults last month in Newtown, Conn., appears to be the shooting that has prompted action on gun control.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled his gun control proposals aimed at curbing violence. He proposed some measures that will require congressional action and signed a number of executive orders to achieve his aim of balancing the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners with the safety of the general public.
We believe it's time that the nation looks at this issue and we need members of Congress to keep an open mind in the upcoming debate and not be cowed by any special interest.
Any talk of gun control stirs passionate reaction for those who don't want their Second Amendment rights touched. We don't advocate a total weapons ban, but amendments have been refined before to prevent unintended outcomes. For example, with the First Amendment, we punish those who print libelous information, and we don't allow people to scream "Fire" in a crowded theater. Those actions impinge on the freedoms of others and put innocent people at risk.
The recent mass killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a theater in Aurora, Colo., and a school in Newtown as well as the daily deaths by handguns throughout the country show that the status quo isn't an option with regard to the Second Amendment.
Among the options Obama laid out Wednesday are six that require congressional action:
? Requiring background checks on all gun sales.
? Reinstating the assault weapons ban.
? Renewing a 10-round limit on the size of ammunition magazines.
? Prohibiting armor-piercing bullets.
? Confirming a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
? Penalizing people who help criminals get guns.
We believe mandating background checks for all purchases, banning armor-piercing bullets, holding accountable those who help criminals get guns, and appointing an ATF director should pass Congress immediately.
The mandatory background checks for all weapons would include private sales and gun-show sales. Most Americans support it - 92 percent, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll. One expert says that 80 percent of those convicted of gun crimes bought their weapons from sellers not currently subjected to background checks.
Transfers among family members or temporary ones for hunting would be exempt to these checks.
Federal and state governments must ensure that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is updated so that it is effective. Obama said the federal government will give $20 million in grants this year and $50 million next year to get states to provide that information.
We agree with the president's proposals to reinstate the assault weapons ban and limit the size of ammunition magazines but believe more debate in Congress is needed because some experts disagree on the effect of the ban.
The assault weapons ban was in place from 1994 (under then-President Bill Clinton) to 2004, when then-President George W. Bush let it lapse. Opponents of the ban say less than 3 percent of the murders in 2011 were by rifle. Proponents of the ban say it led to a huge drop in shootings with those weapons.
FBI statistics show that many more people are killed by handguns than rifles (there's no category for assault weapons). Even if semi-automatic assault weapons are rarely used in attacks, when they are, they have a high capacity for shooting a large number of people in a short amount of time. Look no further than the Aurora shooting.
Among the executive orders that Obama signed include removing legal barriers in health laws that bar some states from disclosing who's prohibited from having guns and ensuring young people get needed mental health treatment.
The National Rifle Association has targeted mental health issues to prevent gun violence. That might be one aspect of addressing gun violence, but it's not the only way. Plus, humans are unpredictable. It's difficult to control emotions, but we can control our laws.
Meanwhile, we hope members of Congress keep an open mind in the upcoming debate and don't get backed into their predictable corners by pro- and anti-gun control advocates. Those who oppose any dialogue on this subject do a greater injustice than those who talk sensibly about the issue.
Background checks should be mandatory. Armor-piercing bullets shouldn't be available outside of the battlefield. Those who arm criminals should be punished. Those areas seem to be common-sense starting points.
The assault weapons ban was in place from 1994 under then-President Bill Clinton. The sitting president at the time was misstated in Sunday's Green Bay Press-Gazette and an earlier online version of this story.