Gun-control bill deserves a vote

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We were pleased Wednesday to hear that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey had reached a deal on legislation to tighten controls on gun sales. Now it is our hope that the measure will get a vote today in the Senate and not be derailed by a group of Republican senators who have mounted a filibuster threat.


Toomey’s conservative credentials, particularly in the area of economic policy, are unquestioned, but fortunately he has proven to be more of a level-headed pragmatist than former Pennsylvania GOP senator Rick Santorum, whose take-no-prisoners extremist positions made him more of a walking sideshow than an effective representative in Washington.


The compromise crafted by Manchin and Toomey would allow for the closing of the “gun show loophole” by expanding background checks to all commercial gun purchases. That would include online transactions. At present, a convicted felon or dangerously mentally ill person can walk into many gun shows across the country and walk out with high-powered weaponry with nary a question asked. Clearly, that is ridiculous, but not in the minds of some in the Senate, particularly the gang lined up in a bid to block a vote on the gun legislation.


The usual suspects are all present. There’s the king of obstructionism, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul, noted science denier Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the new “star” on the right-wing stage, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Florida’s Marco Rubio, whose every move seems calibrated to further his expected run for the White House in 2016.


The would-be filibusterers issued a statement saying they will attempt to block action on “any legislation that infringe(s) on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms,” and Cruz, an ideological bedmate of Santorum’s, added that “we should focus law enforcement resources on the bad guys.”


For Cruz’s information, there already are significant law enforcement resources aimed at the bad guys. What the background check legislation would do is make it a little easier for the good guys to do their jobs, and a little tougher for the bad guys to get weapons of mass murder. That’s why we see law enforcement organizations supporting enhanced background reviews.


Also noteworthy is the fact that we already prohibit private citizens from owning and using all sorts of weaponry. Perhaps Sen. Cruz and his cohorts would like – in the interest of not infringing on anyone’s constitutional rights – to allow your average anti-government militia member to have rocket-propelled grenades and dirty bombs, but we’re going to stick with our opinion that it’s a really bad idea.


It seems unlikely that the post-Newtown push for greater controls on guns will go much beyond the expansion of background checks. Banning high-capacity magazines would seem to be another common-sense move, but it’s highly doubtful there’s sufficient support for it in Congress, not with so many of our lawmakers cowering in the shadow cast by the NRA. A new ban on so-called assault weapons is out of the question. But at the very least, it seems as if the forces trying to prevent a vote on the Manchin-Toomey deal will fail, and there’s a good chance that the measure will receive Senate approval.


We have no delusions that this will eliminate mass shootings in America. There are way too many guns and too many violent and unhinged people for that to happen. But it’s a start, and we can hope that the next step will be serious attention to the nation’s severely broken system for providing mental-health care to its citizens.


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