First off, thank you for your work. I know your job is not easy.
Today I would like to urge you to address the tragic Newtown massacre with rational action, not with ineffective restrictions on sane, law-abiding citizens.
When crafting or voting on legislation, we must start with the facts. And even a few simple facts show that legislation like that proposed by Senator Feinstein completely misses the mark.
First: Though mass shootings are horrific, they are still extremely rare. Despite the over 200 million guns that Americans own, the likelihood of being involved in a mass shooting is roughly similar to one’s chance of being struck by lightning. See here: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=
Second: Rifles of any kind — let alone so-called “assault rifles” — are not the typical tools of criminals. Though there are millions of rifles in the United States, in 2011, the FBI identified only 323 murders (out of over 12,000 for the year) that involved rifles. (In 2011, the FBI did not know whether handguns, shotguns, or rifles were involved in an additional 1,684 murders. However, even if all of those were committed with rifles, more people were murdered with blunt objects, knives, or hands and feet than were murdered with rifles.) See here: http://www.fbi.gov/
Third: Americans use firearms for legitimate self-defense THOUSANDS of times each year. Even the most anti-gun researchers admit that the correct number is in the thousands; academics debate over whether the number is really in the hundreds of thousands. Americans actually use firearms in self-defense more often than in crimes. See here: http://www.bsos.umd.edu/
Fourth: Sane, law-abiding citizens do not wake up and murder people with their legally-owned firearms. The vast majority of murders in the United States are committed by career criminals for whom firearm possession is already illegal. More laws will restrict the constitutionally protected rights of the law-abiding, but will not deter those whose lives are already founded on breaking the law. See here: http://scholarship.law.
Finally: crime is not a gun issue, it is a culture issue. Studies of gun ownership and restrictions across the Western world show absolutely no correlation between crime rates and gun availability. I strongly recommend that you review the vast body of research collated in this excellent article on the issue: http://www.law.harvard.edu/
Switzerland, Sweden, Israel, and New Zealand all have very high rates of gun ownership compared to their neighbors. But why are crime rates in all those countries comparatively low? Because, well, the people in those countries are Swiss, Swedes, Israelis, and Kiwis. Even within the United States, areas with many gun owners typically have less crime than areas with relatively few guns. We need to address crime, not the constitutional rights of the law-abiding.
The proper response to Newtown is, first, to mourn. Then, as a nation, we must rationally weigh policy options and their consequences. The Newtown tragedy touches on issues of education, of parenting, of our mental health care system, of culture, and, of course, of guns.
But as a gun owner, I urge you to keep your mind open on the issue of gun control. The facts above lead to one conclusion: if we are to do anything, we must address the roots of criminality and the failures of our mental health care system. Though guns are an easier target than the deep issues that create mass murderers, firearms are simply not the problem.