Lock and load for gun control

By EDITORIAL  |  January 15, 2013

EDITORIAL_GunControlDebate

It appears that Congress, in an epic fit of bloody-mindedness that reflects the nation's delusional subservience to the National Rifle Association's death cult, will fail to outlaw semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammo clips.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that State Representative David Linsky, a Democrat from Natick, is planning to file legislation by January 18 that would further tighten already stringent Massachusetts gun laws.

Thanks to having what might be considered America's most sensible (but far from perfect) gun laws, the Bay State enjoys the lowest incidence of murder by gunplay in America.

According to the Violence Policy Center's latest available figures, 3.14 people per 100,000 died as a result of gunshots in Massachusetts in 2009.

That's in sharp contrast to that year's national average of 10.19.

Louisiana, which combines lax regulation with widespread firearms ownership, led the nation in gun deaths with an average of 18.03.

There is a simple, undeniable message in these numbers: gun control works; it saves lives.

Despite being in the vanguard of gun-control legislation, the Massachusetts law is riddled with loopholes. Linsky wants to close as many as those as are politically feasible.

One of the most interesting of Linsky's proposals would be to require those who own firearms to buy liability insurance.

The fact of the matter is, society requires automobile owners to take more precautions than it does gun owners. Think about it. Guns are designed to kill, cars aren't — yet they do, and to help protect lives and hold drivers accountable, society requires car owners to take out insurance.

Linsky would prohibit gun shows from selling weapons without background checks. The position of this publication is that guns shows should be banned outright; but absent that, mandatory full background checks, complete with tough criminal penalties for those falsifying information, are logical.

More widespread access to mental-health records for those background checks would also go hand-in-glove, as Linsky proposes.

He also plans to propose banning high-capacity clips.

So-called assault weapons manufactured after 1994 are currently banned from in-state ownership. Why those sold before those dates are exempt is a Beacon Hill mystery. Our guess is that some sort of ban was better than no ban, and the national statistics certainly bear that out.

But after the Newtown school massacre, who can in good conscience argue for the personal ownership of these instruments of destruction?

If Massachusetts were truly serious about eradicating death by firearms, it would institute a buy-back program to permanently retire semiautomatic weapons and their death-dealing high-capacity clips. It is with no disrespect to Linsky that we say it will probably take a mass murder of Newtown proportions before Beacon Hill develops the courage to act on such a measure.

Massachusetts may not be perfect, but it has shown the nation the way to curb gun violence and death without fundamentally restricting the rights of serious sportsmen or target shooters. Beacon Hill must take the next steps to make the public even safer. Those who want to delay should remember the old folk saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

  Topics: The Editorial Page , Gun Control, guns, NRA,  More more >
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