Annual Moment of Silence for Newtown

Tuesday, 18 Dec 2012 11:07 PM

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Twenty defenseless children, ages six and seven, along with six of their teachers and school administrators, were murdered by a young man, himself 20 years old, who before committing these despicable crimes, murdered his mother, shooting her in the face several times.

Without knowing any more about the murderer, Adam Lanza, I think we can all agree he was emotionally disturbed, and mentally ill. In order to hold him responsible for his criminal acts the question would have been, "Did he know the difference between right and wrong, and did he have the ability to adhere to the right?"

sandy-hook-memorial.jpg
A mourner places a candle while visiting a makeshift memorial for shooting victims on Tuesday.
(Getty Images)
We will never know because as the first responding police were approaching, he killed himself using one of his revolvers.

Everyone I know is overwhelmed by what happened. Our feelings about gun ownership and gun laws in this case do not allow us to talk of illegal guns, because the shooter's mother legally bought all of her guns — which her son had access to. 

So it is not simply dealing with the possession of illegal guns or semi-automatic weapons of war that is involved; it is also dealing with the Second Amendment and the right of citizens to own guns without establishing a need to own one for protection or hunting or target practice.

One glaring loophole in the existing federal law respecting gun purchases is that anyone buying a gun at a gun show is not subject to being checked for freedom from mental instability or a felony record. Forty percent of all guns are sold at gun shows.

California Sen. Diane Feinstein has announced that she intends to offer legislation barring the sale of semi-automatic weapons. But she has clarified that her legislation would not be retroactive, so there will be tens of thousands, if not more, semi-automatics already in circulation, and at least some of those who possess them could have bought them at a gun show where no eligibility check was required by law.

My suggestion is that Brennan Center for Justice or a similar organization that has the necessary expertise, come up with a plan to deal with those aspects of gun control that can be effectuated without a constitutional amendment. They should also examine whether there is a need for a constitutional amendment.

I also believe this enormous tragedy should be marked by an act of Congress calling for the public to mark the event annually on the anniversary of the shooting. Citizens should be asked to stop what they are doing and observe a moment of silence to contemplate and recall this tragedy and similar tragedies that have befallen our country. It is my hope that an annual commemoration of this sort may raise everyone's consciousness as to the need to control the level of senseless violence in our society.

Edward Koch was the 105th mayor of New York City for three terms, from 1978 to 1989. He previously served for nine years as a congressman. Read more reports from Ed Koch — Click Here Now.

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