We don’t take issue with many of the proposals President Barack Obama offered Wednesday to reduce gun violence, though it’s hard to see Congress approving a ban on assault weapons.
That is just one of the president’s key recommendations, and though we support it, we doubt a congressional majority will. Though the National Rifle Association and members of the Kansas congressional delegation argue that banning assault weapons would infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights, we’re not so certain the right to bear arms extends to assault weapons, any more than it extends to rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
But failure to ban assault weapons doesn’t doom this worthwhile effort. Other key proposals involve requiring universal background checks for all gun buyers, a ban on ammunition magazines or clips that hold more than 10 bullets and a genuine crackdown on gun trafficking.
There is no good reason not to require background checks for gun purchases; they can prevent sales to criminals or mentally ill people who are dangers to themselves or to others. Loopholes in present law pertaining to gun shows and other private sales exempt four out of every 10 sales from background checks. Making background checks more comprehensive and ensuring better enforcement of present gun laws also are among the president’s executive orders. Another directive erases any doubt that federal law allows health care providers to report threats of violence their patients make.
We don’t doubt that the overwhelming majority of gun owners — and folks who oppose any restrictions on firearms — are law-abiding citizens. Nor do we question the Second Amendment right to own firearms, whether for self-defense, hunting, target shooting or collecting.
But the president’s proposals don’t take that right away. What’s more, the suggestion that the president or our government are following the path of tyrannies that took their citizens’ guns away before stripping citizens of many other rights is a scare tactic that would be laughable but for the fact that it’s repeated so often that increasing numbers of people seem to believe it.
We recognize that there’s much more to the plague of violence that afflicts America than just guns. We also acknowledge that the president’s proposals won’t end gun violence, or even, sadly, end massacres.
But those aren’t reasons to defend the status quo. The president’s proposals can save lives, perhaps many lives — and they can do so with minimal impact on law-abiding gun owners. Surely members of Congress and the president can find enough to agree on to make inroads into gun violence.
As the president said Wednesday in announcing his proposals, “If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”