Like everyone, I was horrified and sickened by the news of the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn. on Friday. As I write this on Monday, families from Sandy Hook Elementary are attending the first of what will be an agonizing week of funerals for the 20 children and their brave teachers who were killed by a madman with an assault rifle.

As President Barack Obama made clear in Newton on Sunday, all of America is grieving over this tragedy.

Around the country communities are wondering when the next incident of gun violence will occur. School administrators and teachers will review their security procedures. Students will practice more lockdown drills. Law enforcement agencies, first responders and hospitals will review mass shooting procedures.

Parents and school teachers around the country will have an almost impossible task explaining to their young children what happened, and why, and trying to reassure them that they will be safe in their own schools tomorrow and the next day.

America leads the world in gun violence. The annual death rate of 30,000 citizens from any other single cause would trigger immediate actions. Yet, until now, we seem to have lacked the will to take effective actions to prevent continued mass killings.

Clearly there is no one solution, or easy solution, to preventing these tragedies.

My friends who work in mental health tell me how difficult it is to get care or intervention for people who are the most disturbed because they often lack health insurance or have grossly inadequate health coverage. We have a patchwork set of mental health laws that results in badly disturbed adults too often released back onto the streets against the wishes of their families or the judgment of social workers. Finding and treating people who are a threat to society has to be part of the solution and that will require more resources for treatment and overhaul of mental health laws.

But we always have had insane people within our communities. Until recently, what most of them have lacked is easy, almost unlimited access to weapons of mass killing. And for that to change we have to confront the culture of guns and gun worship that has become such a powerful force in our country.

The locked cabinet with hunting rifles and shotguns my son and I own is just a few feet away from my computer keyboard. We enjoy hunting and consider it part of our culture, just like over 600,000 other Wisconsin citizens. I was a lead author of legislation in 2009 to allow 10 year olds to participate in mentored hunts with family members. I supported Wisconsin’s concealed carry law in 2011.

But as a hunter and gun owner, I am appalled at the dishonesty and extremism of what used to be mainstream sportsmen groups. The National Rifle Association of my father’s era (my dad was a longtime member) promoted hunting and shooting sports. Today’s NRA is led by an extreme group of zealots and big money interests that spends hundreds of millions of dollars peddling the paranoid conspiracy theory that somebody (for now it is President Obama) is about to take their guns away. They are not doing genuine sportsmen and women any favors with such irresponsible positions.

The power of the gun lobby has many politicians running scared, and has made it almost impossible to develop sane policies. Here at home that culture was on full display as the Wisconsin Legislature passed a suite of pro-gun bills last session, many of them badly flawed, but failed to even hold a vote on a bill addressing the loophole that leaves kindergartens out of the definition of gun-free school zones.

If we are going to take seriously our commitment to protect American children from what happened in Newtown, there is a lot we need to do. We have to find the resources to identify and treat the mentally ill. And we have to be willing to have an honest conversation about how we keep guns away from disturbed people and criminals as well as how we can keep assault weapons out of our communities.

What we cannot do is let an absurd notion of absolute gun rights that extends beyond any limit of common sense prevent us from acting to keep our children and families safe. Our kids deserve better.

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. As always it is an honor to serve as your state representative.

Rep. Fred Clark represents the 42nd District in the state Assembly. His column appears monthly in the News Republic.

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Thinkforonce
Thinkforonce

Well said, Fred. I believe assault weapons and big clips and drums should not be in the public in the hands of violent, mentally disturbed people. From Gabby Gifford, to Aurora, to Sandy Hook, this is becoming far too common of an event. The conversation has begun.

The membership of the NRA knows somethings must change. It seems the NRA focuses on the profits of the manufacturers at the expense of the safety needs of society.

Cheezer
Cheezer

The weapon used in the Newtown murders was a semi automatic rifle or carbine that was legally purchased in Connecticut and was intended to be used for target shooting and defense. It would be legal under the older "assault weapon ban" that ended in 2004. More gun laws will not end murder. Each year 1,000,000 babies are murdered in their mother's womb. Perhaps we can end the culture of death by banning abortion.

strikeforce
strikeforce

it was a civilian knockoff of an m16 battlefield weapon balcony warrior.

i could convert it to fully automatic in 10 minutes. ducktape 2 banana clips together and i would have a 60 round clip.

in the military it would be useful on the battlefield cheeter but not in small town america .

way to deflect on the real tragedy and its causes by mentioning womens issue. oh,yeah i really see the connections their.

i wish that punk who did that had been aborted as well as his mom and maybe throw you in their too.

Cheezer
Cheezer

Describe how you would convert a Colt LE6920 to fully automatic please.

strikeforce
strikeforce

i worked in the armory of my infantry battalion in the 101 st airborne division from 1975-1981.

you think i would tell a teabagger like you how to do it ?

i won't even tell you how to find the information on the internet. i don't want blood on my hands like you repugs have.

Cheezer
Cheezer

I am certain the latrines in that armory were quite clean!

Colycat
Colycat

Strikeforce seems to have a chip on his shoulder. I am not an expert on the AR platform, but I know for sure it would take parts that are e legal to convert to full auto. And I am sure the latrines were very clean. LOL.

drpavlov
drpavlov

Most of the mass shooters were on serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, psychotropic drugs,like
prozac and paxil. or other mind-altering drugs. Probably all played violent video games
and watched, as a steady diet, movies laden with gratuitous violence. Moreover, some
were involved in government mind -control programs.

Guns are not the problem Banning them is immoral, for it leaves one vulnerable and
open to attack.

strikeforce
strikeforce

pure drivel. except for the violent video games part.

i am calling the sanitorium right now to come get you.

drpavlov
drpavlov

Fred Clark said:

"Today’s NRA is led by an extreme group of zealots and big money interests that spends hundreds of millions of dollars peddling the paranoid conspiracy theory that somebody (for now it is President Obama) is about to take their guns away"

Obama's been talking about major league Federal gun control for a long time, and in
recent days the anti-second amendment rhetoric has intensified. Powerful Demon Rats
like Chuckie Shumer, Diane Feinstein ,and Mayor of NYC, Bloomberg, who are all rabid foaming at the mouth gun grabbers, are beating the drums for a total ban on firearms.
Wake up Mr. Clark!

strikeforce
strikeforce

pure drivel part 2.

total ban on firearms ? your freaking out man i mean alien.

drpavlov
drpavlov

Fred Clark said:
"Here at home that culture was on full display as the Wisconsin Legislature passed a suite of pro-gun bills last session, many of them badly flawed, but failed to even hold a vote on a bill addressing the loophole that leaves kindergartens out of the definition of gun-free school zones.'

There couldn't be an easier place to commit mass murder than a gun-free zone.
Forcing law abiding citizens to be powerless to stop crazed zombies from going berserk is unconscionable.

Every school needs at least one, or preferably several trained shooters who would be part of the staff ; that is what our loving government would encourage if they wanted to save lives; but they don't. They have agendas to advance,
Wake up Mr. Clark!

strikeforce
strikeforce

i agree with you here doc.like in texas,a county down their requires 1 adult in each school to have ready access to a firearm just in case.they don't let anyone know who it is.

Fredmakesmyheadhurt
Fredmakesmyheadhurt

Ok lets start with just knowing the facts if we are going to write about them. For example the US dos not lead the world in gun violence, it is not even remotely close. It only leads in gun violence in the richest top 20 countries. It actually falls in at about 60 worldwide. Second and I believe is a much great messages was the one addressed above by Cheezer. If I am not mistaken you are actually a pro-choice candidate making you responsible for the shedding of innocent blood on a much bigger scale. There are approximately 3000 legal abortions done in the US daily. While this shooting was a tragedy and the lives of so many shatter, you talking any law that takes away rights is a joke when you leave the biggest killer on the table, abortion. You make me sick sir.

strikeforce
strikeforce

the usa leads all the industrialized nations in gun deaths. i don't know where you get your "facts" from headache guy but does the first letter start with F ?

if you are a republican you have blood on your hands.go to the bathroom right now and wash your hands 26 times to see if the blood comes out. the nazi rifle association(NRA) is a defacto arm of the repugnantican party.anyone with half a brain knows that.they want all americans to be able to buy as many machine guns they want as long as they are not certified lunatics and even then you could go to some gun shows in texas and their is no questions asked.

you don't have a right to own battlefield weapons of mass murder destruction headache guy.

and your comparison of those 20 6 year old babies gunned down last friday to abortions makes me want to go throw up.thanks alot.

Thinkforonce
Thinkforonce

Abortions? These people have aborted their brains.

Thinkforonce
Thinkforonce

The abortion nuts are also the assault weapons and gunshow nuts. They care for human beings until they suck their first breath of air. A 30-shot clip to hunt deer. Nuts.

Colycat
Colycat

I am afraid Rep Clark has missed the point of the 2nd amendment. I was and still is a restriction on the government in regards of our God given right. It was and still does guarantee the right to posses state of the art military field arms. It has nothing to do with the right to hunt or wether you "Need" 30 round mags.

The police have decided that for them, the AR platform and semi auto handguns are what they need to protect us. Thats good enough for me to decide to equip myself and family the same and for the same reasons.