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As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I was saddened and appalled by the most recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas high school — even the phrase, “most recent mass shooting” should give us all pause.

Yousef Baig’s column on the Feb. 20 ("Many Parkland shooting victims are people we 'know'") makes an excellent point about “how familiar these victims are.” They could indeed be our own beloved teachers or children.

Though we have a relatively strong law in California that limits the possession of assault weapons, so long as surrounding states, and the country as a whole, permit the possession of such incredibly lethal firearms we are all still in danger of the very sort of tragedy that occurred in Florida.

It is essential to understand that AR-15s and similar guns not only allow an assailant to mow down a great number of people in a very short time, they also result in unusually horrible wounds that are almost invariably fatal.

In an article in the current issue of The Atlantic, Dr. Heather Sher provides an example of the way an AR-15 bullet affects the body: “Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable unless the bullet hits the main blood supply to the liver. An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to a trauma center to receive our care.”

These guns are not hunting tools; they are killing machines more appropriate for the battlefield than for the sportsman.

The NRA argues that the assault weapons ban (1994-2004) had little or no effect on gun deaths. This is a distortion of the facts: in the 10 years prior to the ban, there were 19 mass shooting incidents and 155 deaths; during the years when sales were curtailed (1994-2004), there were 12 incidents and 89 deaths. In the decade that followed the repeal of the ban (2004-2014), there were 34 mass shootings and 302 deaths.

Even more disturbing is the current trend: in the last three years there have been as many gun massacres as in the entire decade that preceded it. The proliferation of semi-automatic weapons virtually guarantees that this trend will escalate.

This is not a Second Amendment issue, it is a public health and safety imperative. Schools are not safe; children on playgrounds are not safe; none of us are free from the threat of a confused and homicidal shooter.

Arming teachers or individuals is more likely to cause more loss of life; even highly trained police often miss their target. The logical, compassionate solution is simple: reserve weapons of war for the purpose of war, while allowing individuals to possess guns appropriate for hunting and/or self-defense.

Judith Rose

St. Helena