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Advocates of meaningful gun control need to bring pressure to bear on reluctant senators.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
An assault weapons ban may have been the most high-profile piece of gun control legislation to come out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision Tuesday to exclude it from the bill that will go to the full Senate will not cut the heart out of meaningful reform.
No, that threat comes from Reid’s signal that legislation to require background checks for private gun sales might not make it into the package, either.
Universal background checks are essential if, as gun rights advocates argue, the only constitutional way to limit the carnage of America’s gun culture is to keep guns out of the hands of the bad guys.
An overwhelming majority of Americans — including 90 percent of current gun owners, according to a New York Times-CBS poll in January — want to weed out buyers who already are known to pose a threat to society.
Yet the only bill, thus far, with enough bipartisan support to be assured of a full Senate vote next month is one to increase the penalties for straw purchases: buying guns for people barred from having them.
According to news accounts, a measure to renew a school security grant program also is likely to become part of the initial gun control package, which can be amended on the Senate floor.
Reid has told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, sponsor of the assault weapons ban bill, that he will let her offer it as an amendment, along with a separate amendment to limit the size of their magazines, which was part of her original bill. Separating the two leaves some hope at least of winning Senate approval to limit the number of rounds in a magazine.
If the Senate, much less the more conservative House, cannot pass meaningful safeguards, the public will need to take its demands for change to the ballot box.
The founders did not intend a right to bear arms to leave citizens helpless against the slaughter of children.
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