Magazine article The Christian Century

Gun Laws, Gun Culture

Magazine article The Christian Century

Gun Laws, Gun Culture

Article excerpt

Gun makers will change the way they do business if courts threaten them with financial panalties.

When vice-president Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate last month for a plan to require background checks on people making purchases at gun shows, it was hailed as a major triumph for gun control. The lobbying power of the National Rifle Association was ebbing, we were told, following the school shootings in Colorado and Georgia.

That a close vote on background checks could be construed as a new era in gun control tells us a lot about the vast power the NRA has wielded over legislators. A 51-50 vote is not exactly a mandate for change, and a background check hardly constitutes an onerous regulation. But then the gun lobby is not accustomed to setbacks of any sort. The Senate's vote for background checks was the first gun control measure to win favor since the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995.

Other sensible curbs on guns have been proposed, including measures to limit sales to minors and sales by private dealers; to limit the number of gun purchases that can be made at one time so as to cut down on "gun running"; and to require more child-proof safety locks on guns. The amount of attention those measures receive in Congress will tell us more about whether a new era has truly begun.

Meanwhile, cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, impatient with the slow movement on legislation, are taking another route: they are taking gun manufacturers to court, seeking to hold them liable for the way they make and market weapons. …

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