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Viewpoint: A grown-up talk about guns

It is time to have a grown-up conversation about guns. The meeting will be at Town Hall, tomorrow night. Don’t come if you plan on yelling.

Your crazy Uncle Bill, who has a bunker in his backyard and a subscription to “Doomsday Weekly,” and never goes anywhere (including your cousin’s baptism) without a .45 tucked into the back of his jeans, is not invited.

Neither is your neighbor, Janet, who throws paint on fur coats and thinks police officers should only carry pamphlets teaching about safe conflict resolution. She can stay home and watch “Girls.”

The other 95 percent of us are welcome to show up and talk about the realities of gun ownership, gun regulation and making the world a safer place. We are the 95 percent who know that Joe Smith’s yearly elk-hunting trip does not make him a psychopath, nor does his legally owned (and safely stored) set of Browning rifles. We are also the 95 percent who are reasonably startled to find out that Uncle Bill has been hunting geese with a pair of Uzis.

It was a bad year for shootings. That much is obvious. There were between 13 and 17 notable mass shootings in 2012 (depending on the news source — some organizations do not qualify instances of gang violence), and in more than half of those examples, the guns were purchased legally. In almost all of the other shootings, the guns were stolen from relatives or friends who had also purchased them legally. In the other cases, it is generally unclear if the guns were purchased legally or not, whether due to details being withheld for ongoing trials or information being misrepresented on gun ownership applications.

In response to the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., a day which President Obama called “the worst day of my presidency,” the commander-in-chief said, “Something has to work. And it is not enough for us to say, ‘This is too hard, so we’re not going to try.’”

Twenty-seven people, including 20 children, were killed that day. Adam Lanza, according to police, used two handguns and one assault rifle, all of which were legally owned by his mother, who was also the tragic victim of the shooter at a secondary crime scene.

There was also the Dec. 14 shooting at the Aurora movie theater (12 killed — two handguns, one shotgun and one assault rifle used, all purchased legally), or the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting (six killed — one handgun, purchased legally), or the Oregon mall shooting (two killed — one assault rifle, stolen from an acquaintance). The fact is the only thing in common with these shootings is that one man — unfortunately, the gender rarely changes — broke, and committed an act of unpredictable terror.

But there isn’t a way to legislate against the broken individual. And there isn’t an easy solution for stopping these men from wanting to commit acts of violence.

So we need to work with what we know: Guns, especially assault weapons, need to be regulated. Not taken away. Not stored in Nancy Pelosi’s basement. Just regulated. And once these regulations are put in place, they need to be enforced.

Those who say all guns are evil are not being realistic and have no place in an effective conversation. The hearts of responsible gun owners ache for the victims of these tragedies as well.

Which is why the solution needs to be reached by responsible gun owners. No more retreating into the bunker. No more barking back when a politician dares to mention anything about following through on gun control regulation. No more looking at the Second Amendment as equal in importance to the first one, which includes “life” as one of its main promises.

We welcome all those who are willing to be objective. The town meeting is tomorrow night.

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