The massacre of 20 young children in Connecticut is moving Congress toward action to prevent the next mass shooting.

That's the view of Tucson's two congressmen, Democrats Raúl Grijalva and Ron Barber, who said Monday they support banning the sale of so-called "assault rifles" as well as high-capacity magazines.

They also called for action to help address mental illness.

"I think we have to stop talking about doing something and actually do something," said Barber, who was wounded in the mass shooting in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011.

Grijalva called for moving beyond the "national dialogue" on guns in society that ramped up after the shootings in Tucson and continued through slaughters in Wisconsin, Colorado and Oregon this year.

"We have been cowed by (gun-rights) absolutists for too long," Grijalva said in a written statement. "When we accept eight or nine thousand gun murders a year as the price of what some people think of as freedom, we have gone too far."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, has said she plans to introduce a new assault-weapons ban that would target about 100 weapons and prohibit the sale of magazines and drums that can hold more than 10 bullets.

Any move to restrict sales of some guns, components or ammunition will meet certain resistance, but it may well be weaker now than it has been for years.

"There's a greater danger to our freedom, that people will lose their spine and not support the Constitution," said Charles Heller, a Tucsonan and co-founder of the Arizona Citizens Defense League.

Heller supports improving the system for ensuring that those judged mentally incompetent don't have guns, he said. But when it comes to firearms, he argues that the best solution is to have guns in the hands of good people with training.

"There's only one way to stop a bad person with a gun - that's with a good person with a gun," he said.

To prevent such shootings, there need to be more trained, armed people in schools, Heller said.

But Grijalva and Barber say especially deadly weapons and components such as the ones used in Newtown, Conn., and in Tucson must be taken off the market, even though millions of the guns and magazines are already in private hands.

"What happens to that aging stockpile? I think that attrition takes care of that itself," Grijalva said.

Each mass shooting has multiple causes, Barber said, but two of the most common causes have been mental illness and access to high-powered weapons. He said he will re-introduce next session a bill intended to spread a program started in Southern Arizona providing "mental heath first aid."

The idea is to train people to recognize the signs of mental illness and teach them about the procedures and resources in the area where they live.

He and Grijalva also called for an end to funding cuts for mental-health care in Arizona and nationwide.

"We can't wait for another tragedy to deal with this," Barber said. "I don't want this to happen in any other school, with any other children."

Heller sympathized with that sentiment but said banning products is not the way to make that happen. He also called on news organizations to stop naming mass killers as a way of reducing the recognition they can receive from a rampage.

"That's the one thing you could do immediately that would have the most effect," he argued.

Arizona Daily Star reporter Stephanie Innes contributed to this report. Contact reporter Tim Steller at or 807-8427.