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To Rep. John Katko:

After the latest school shooting, I was appalled but not surprised when President Trump responded by saying that now we must really tackle this problem, and then identifying the cause of the problem as mental health, without even mentioning guns, the need for meaningful gun control, or the particular kind of weapon that was used in this massacre, as it has been in previous school and other mass shootings. We do have a mental health system in this country. But we also have a flood — semi-automatic rifles — weapons designed for maximum lethal effect in combat situations.

I was sorry to see that your public response was very much like the president’s. With all due respect, to talk about the mental health system at a time like this seems like an attempt to divert attention from the real problem, the easy availability of the AR-15 and similar weapons. In your statement you said, “The inaction in Congress to date is unacceptable.” That is true. But just as unacceptable is to pretend that the availability of semi-automatic weapons is not a problem.

Since no significant action was taken after Newtown, I am not optimistic that we will have congressional action after Parkland. But there is a rising tide of outrage. The most hopeful element in the response to the latest tragedy was students calling for meaningful change. They are protesting, planning demonstrations, carrying signs that say “Ban the AR-15.”

Whatever the thrill or satisfaction of having a semi-automatic weapon is, it is not as important as protecting our children from mass shootings. Time for a change.

Howard Nelson