Click photo to enlarge
Gun show goers look at various assault-style weapons December 30, 2012 at the Nation's Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia. Since the Connecticut school shootings, gun sales, particularly assault-style weapons have gone up sharply. Guillaume Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

While people in every corner of America are heartbroken over the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the problem is not firearms. I have been associated with firearms for more than 60 years and I have never seen one take an independent action.

The problem is people with access to firearms. To attempt to take away the Second Amendment rights of all Americans to solve what is unquestionably a people problem is the wrong approach that would lead to a false sense of security and ultimately prove to be a complete failure. But I understand that it plays politically to the anti-gun crowd.

There is no such thing as an assault weapon available to the American public through legitimate channels. The military look-alike rifles that have been the subject of much derision in recent months are emphatically not assault rifles. They are no more powerful than -- and, in fact, operate exactly like -- innocuous semi-automatic hunting rifles that are chambered for the .223 round.

The term "assault weapon" is an English language translation of "Sturmgewehr" (storm rifle), the name of a German World War II vintage military rifle that was issued to Nazi paratroopers. It was fully automatic in its operation -- meaning that it would fire continuous bursts as long as the trigger was held back.


Advertisement

By contrast, the American military look-alikes fire a single round each time the trigger is pulled. The round fired by the Sturmgewehr was a 7.92-by-33 mm, the bullet of which was as much as five times heavier and many times more powerful than the .223.

In fact, the bullet of the .223 is only a few grains heavier than that of the ubiquitous .22 with which countless thousands of Americans learn marksmanship.

Quite simply, the political attack on the semi-automatic .223 military look-alike is a wrongheaded way of solving a problem that is clearly not the fault of a firearm.

I will acknowledge the difficulty of keeping firearms out of the hands of those who are mentally or emotionally disturbed, but this is the path that must be followed in order to help prevent future repetitions of Newtown.

These are the steps:

1. Medical professionals must share mental and emotional health data with law enforcement and the National Instant Criminal Background Check system so that their patients will be prevented from gaining access to firearms.

2. NICS must be expanded to cover the private sales of firearms.

3. Ammunition magazines of greater than 10 rounds must be restricted to police and military users.

4. Violent video games and other forms of violent entertainment must be restricted to adults only -- and especially kept away from those who exhibit mental and emotional instability.

Firearms enthusiasts -- and everyone with a beating heart -- grieves for the victims and families of those affected by mass shootings. But we simply cannot abide another foolhardy attempt to solve a people problem by concentrating our attention on firearms. It didn't work in 1994, as a continuing series of tragedies have amply demonstrated, and it won't work now.

Chuck Hoffman is a Newark resident.