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Opinion

New gun laws? Don't aim at only mass shootings like Sandy Hook.

We only take notice when gun violence is sufficiently spectacular, such as at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But on a typical day in the US, 33 people are murdered by guns, and 50 die in gun-related suicides. It's time to regulate.

By Mark Nuckols / December 19, 2012

President Obama with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House Dec. 19 as he announces that Mr. Biden will lead a team to develop a strategy against gun violence. Op-ed contributor Mark Nuckols writes: Gun regulation is 'almost entirely a political issue, for which a wide range of politicians has dodged responsibility by hiding behind a largely fictional cover of constitutionality that supposedly disallowed regulation.'

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Year after year, nearly 100,000 Americans are shot or killed in gun-related incidents. That is the equivalent of a war – one waged in US communities and homes on a daily basis.

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But we only take notice of the grim toll inflicted by widespread and largely unregulated gun ownership when the violence is sufficiently spectacular to attract major media coverage. So when 20 young children and six adults are murdered in a shooting spree in a grade school in a quiet Connecticut community, as well as the gunman killing himself and his mother, the entire nation is appalled by such random and massive violence.

However, on a typical day in the United States, 33 people are murdered by guns, and another 50 die in gun-related suicides.

And there are three specific groups of people who are the most common victims of gun violence: the wives and girlfriends of men who own guns, young inner-city African-American men, and people who suffer from clinical depression – though random mass shootings remind us that others, too, are vulnerable.

It is a sad commentary that the spectacular series of shootings in classrooms, malls, and theaters – rather than the more widely destructive everyday incidents – could be the galvanizing force that finally moves America to sensible gun regulation. But regulate America must.

As a nation, the US has failed to do anything meaningful to stop this senseless bloodshed. The public has been hoodwinked by an ideological campaign based on misleading arguments, and politicians have been cowed by the gun lobby. But as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg rightly commented after the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, the power of the National Rifle Association is “vastly overrated.”

For decades the gun lobby has loudly proclaimed that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to gun ownership. Only recently has the Supreme Court actually endorsed this interpretation, and the court held only that the federal and local governments cannot impose absolute bans on gun ownership, emphatically emphasizing that the Constitution does not prohibit strict regulation of gun ownership.

Regulation of guns is in fact almost entirely a political issue, for which a wide range of politicians has dodged responsibility by hiding behind a largely fictional cover of constitutionality that supposedly disallowed regulation.

Another common argument is that hunting and sport shooting is a sacred “way of life” for gun owners. But isn’t “hobby” a more accurate term?

My own preferred hobby is driving my Volvo 850 at 140 miles per hour. Law-abiding and responsible gun owners protest that their legal enjoyment of guns should not be constrained by restrictive gun legislation. I am a responsible and law-abiding driver and the speed limits on America’s highways deprive me of the pleasure of high velocity auto travel, which I can enjoy on the Autostrada when I visit Italy but not when I am on US Interstate 95. Yet I respect the right of my fellow citizens to impose a speed limit in the interests of public safety.

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