We should not wait for our elected officials, in President Obama's good words, "to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics." We should do our share. One way to proceed is to mark our homes, apartments and condos, with a "gun free" sign. Parents should notify their friends that they would be reluctant to send their child over for a play date unless the home was safe from guns. Residential communities should pass rules that ban bringing guns onto their premises, clearly marking them as gun free.
Anyone who puts up such signs will become an ambassador for gun control, because they are sure to be challenged by gun advocates to explain their anti-gun positions. Here are some pointers they may wish to use against the typical pro-gun talking points.
"Guns don't kill people, people kill people."
• Tragically, it is the case that there will always be dangerous individuals, but they can kill a lot more with easy access to guns. On the same day as the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, a knife-wielding man targeted a primary school in a Chinese village. Twenty-two children and one adult were wounded, but none were killed.
"Guns deter crimes and save lives."
• Of the 30,000 gun deaths in America every year, only 200 are caused by self-defense. Studies have shown that a higher rate of gun ownership is correlated with higher rates of homicide, suicide and unintentional shootings. The U.S. has a firearms homicide rate 19.5 times higher than the combined rate of 22 high income countries with similar non-lethal crime and violence rates.
"Criminals would obtain guns anyway."
• Weak gun laws that exempt many private companies and gun shows from background checks already enable a thriving criminal market for guns. According to the Brady Campaign, "In most states convicted felons, domestic violence abusers, and those who are dangerously mentally ill can walk into any gun show, flea market, or even log on to the Internet and buy weapons from unlicensed sellers, no questions asked." True, dangerous people may still be able get their hands on weapons if tighter gun control laws are passed, but certainly less will do so when it is illegal.
"The right to private gun ownership is guaranteed by the Constitution."
• No right is absolute. Even the right to free speech, considered the strongest of them all, is limited. You cannot shout "fire" in a crowded theater -- precisely because it endangers life. You can't always make a speech with a loudspeaker at 2 a.m. in a residential area. We can limit gun ownership to people who have neither criminal nor mental health records and ban assault rifles for starters. Meanwhile, make our children safer by not allowing them to go to places that are not gun free.
Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University and author of Hot Spots: American Foreign Policy in a Post-Human Rights World, published by Transaction.