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Unopened presents under the tree

On Dec. 25, millions of children from around the world woke up and rushed to their living rooms to see what gifts Santa Claus had left for them underneath the Christmas tree. I remember as a child being the first one up, waking up my parents and my brothers before 7 a.m. It was a joyous occasion.

But this year I couldn’t help but think about the families of the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School and how they must have felt as they removed presents that will never be opened from under their Christmas trees.

What can we do as a community to help ensure that such senseless acts of violence are reduced? For several years I was a police officer in south Florida and dealing with guns was an everyday reality for me. Since the Columbine shootings, first responders have been trained to deal with active shooter situations. But law enforcement is typically reactionary in nature, and officers are seldom able to stop those situations before they start. What we need are leaders who are willing to demand gun control reform.

My goal – and that of most people who want reform – is not to take away people’s guns. But we must have a conversation about common-sense approaches to curtail gun violence.

The Bushmaster 223, which was used to slaughter most of the victims in Sandy Hook, is the civilian version of what I carried as a police officer. This gun has no practical purpose for average citizens, other than creating mayhem. I have heard the argument that inside it functions the same as a hunting rifle and the outside appearance is what upsets people. That’s simply not true. Any avid hunter would tell you that they would not use this weapon to hunt, because it would cause too much damage to the game. The bullets used in this riffle can travel as far as two miles when fired. They can easily break through walls of homes and body armor typically worn by law enforcement officers. Surely we can all agree that banning an assault weapon like this is an appropriate step to take.

But this argument goes beyond just guns. We also need to address high-capacity magazines. Many people equate guns to protection. I understand that argument, but if you are protecting yourself, then surely you don’t need a handgun that has a magazine with a 30-round capacity. At a certain point you’d move from defense to offense, and that is a line that must not be crossed.

I am disgusted with seeing mass shooting after mass shooting and then hearing that now is the time for mourning and not the time to talk about gun control. Enough is enough. Now is the time to talk about gun control and to demand that our elected officials take action at every level.

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