We Must Debate Gun Control Before Memory of Aurora Fades

America still needs a concrete solution to gun violence.

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Shamecca Davis hugs her son Isaiah Bow, who was an eye witness to the shooting, outside Gateway High School in Denver where witnesses were brought for questioning.

The funerals are over, so we will soon forget the tragedy in Aurora, Colo. and the 12 people whom James Holmes reportedly killed there. The only things that will make us remember the slaughter in Aurora are our consciences. But we'll have the same discussion soon when the same thing happens somewhere else.

Both presidential candidates have a responsibility to speak out while the memories of the victims are still fresh in our minds. After the murders in Tucson in 2011, President Barack Obama said we need to have a "new discussion of how we can keep America safe for all our people." More than a year later that discussion is long overdue.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney needs to get off the fence and explain his positions to voters. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed a state ban on assault weapons in 2004. Upon passage, Romney said assault weapons "are implements of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people." Now Romney says he opposes any efforts to ban the kind of assault weapons that James Holmes allegedly used in Aurora to kill 12 people and Jared Lee Loughner used in Tucson to kill six innocent people.

There is no federal law that prohibits the sale of guns to people with mental problems. A psychiatrist was reportedly treating James Holmes before went on his alleged murderous rampage. At the very least, we need a new federal law that requires a background check before someone purchases a weapon.

Our current gun control policy, such as it is, is to shoot first and ask the shooter questions later. It would be much better to reverse the process. In many states, the only question a gun buyer has to answer is, "Cash or charge?"

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The night I discussed the Aurora killings when I hosted Leslie Marshall's nationally syndicated radio talk show, I started the show feeling very pessimistic about gun law reform and finished on a more optimistic note.

I spoke to a gun owner who made feel me better about the prospects for passage of stricter gun control law. Phil is a veteran from Kentucky and a National Rifle Association member. He uses his weapon for target practice. Even though Phil is a member, he is frustrated by the refusal of the NRA to even discuss much less support tougher gun regulations. Phil said he didn't want anybody with mental problems and a gun living in his neighborhood. As a combat veteran, he knows how dangerous guns are in the wrong hands.

Phil and many other NRA members know the Second Amendment is not a license to hunt down and kill innocent people. I hope the NRA is listening.

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