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Does Having a Gun in the Home Put Your Life at Risk?

In the wake of Sandy Hook, some gun owners are deciding that the risk is too high.

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Weighing dangers and deterrence is what reasonable people do, and many gun owners are reasonable people. In the aftermath of the Connecticut shooting, some gun owners are getting rid of guns in government buyback programs because they have concluded that the risk of keeping them is too high. For many, that’s a sound decision. For others, the need for a gun of some kind can still be justified, even with a full understanding of the risk.

What is not helpful is the extreme rhetoric of the National Rifle Association, which is no longer interested in education or fact-based discussion, but in pushing through the most irresponsible gun laws its members can cook up. The NRA has drafted numerous bills to block laws that would help protect Americans from gun violence. Such bills have been adopted by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporations and legislators as models for the rest of the country. One bill is based on Florida's “Stand Your Ground/Shoot First” law that creates legal immunity for shooters claiming self-defense, a notion that far exceeds traditional self-defense rights. Some call it a "license to kill." ALEC has also worked to block bans on automatic and rapid-firing semi-automatic weapons, such as the weapon used in the Sandy Hook school massacre.

Obama is signaling a willingness to challenge the extreme positions of the gun lobby, and hopefully millions of his fellow Americans will join him, including gun owners interested in public safety. Urban and rural, Democrat and Republican, we all owe it to those who died Friday to have a frank, reasoned conversation that does not deal in paranoia and extremism.

We know what the NRA will say to Sandy Hook: more guns. That kind of rhetoric doesn’t fly anymore. The vital question of public safety is now on the table, and we’ll need to look at every aspect of that question when it comes to gun violence, from background checks to types of guns available to regulation that would require gun owners to demonstrate competence and understanding of safety the same way drivers of cars are required to prove their fitness for operating a vehicle. More facts is the order of the day. And more minds open to rational debate.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.