The predictable list of new restrictions would include not only banning the sale of semiautomatic weapons like the Bushmaster .223 that was used to massacre the children and teachers in Newtown’s elementary school, but the fuel that runs them, the ammunition in expanded clips. Also, the president indicated that no one buying firearms should be excluded from a background check.
That means closing the gun show loophole that allows merchants to sell weapons from bazookas to pistols instantly without vetting the customer to see if he is in a prohibited category, covering convicted felons and those with a recorded history of mental illness, a much more difficult group to detect.
There are a number of other steps that might come out of this initiative without doing violence to the constitutional guarantees of the Second Amendment — actions that don’t restrict the right to bear arms but guard the public institutions from the kind of events that occurred in Connecticut and Aurora, Colo., and Portland, Ore., in the last six months. In its most recent ruling on the subject, the Supreme Court, while sanctifying the individual right to own a firearm, left plenty of room for controlling where, when and how.
As important to the effort of developing a substantial proposal is the public itself. For anything meaningful to be successful, Americans from all walks and beliefs on this issue must not let the memory of what happened at Sandy Hook fade into inaction as it has in so many similar instances. That would be a tragedy as large as the horrifying incident itself.
To assure this initiative doesn’t lose momentum, the president has ordered Biden to move quickly to take advantage of the atmosphere that already has begun to produce a growing understanding that these weapons have no place in our society outside the battlefield. It has never been more imperative for all Americans, even those who own and covet firearms, to realize the dangers here. It will be tough, but finally a president has said “enough” and every thinking citizen should echo that demand.
Dan K. Thomasson is the former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service. Email him at email@example.com.