Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

AT LARGE: Obama's Gun Control Proposal Is a Good Start

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

AT LARGE: Obama's Gun Control Proposal Is a Good Start

Article excerpt

Robert DeWitt, my colleague, friend and occasional sparring partner on these pages, took a hard look at the national rash of mass murders, culminating in the slaughter of 26 people, including 20 young children, in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, and came to the conclusion that he really does not know what to do to curb such epidemic violence in the United States.

Let it be stipulated here that as someone who does not own any guns, unlike Robert, who owns many, is a hunter and skeet and trap shooter, I share Robert's frustration and have few answers -- and none I am confident would work -- to prevent such massacres in the future.

I do, however, think President Barack Obama's three-pronged gun control proposal last week would be a good starting point for reform.

On Wednesday Obama cited widespread support for new regulations that would include a ban on assault weapons, a limitation on high- capacity ammunition clips and a move to close the "loophole" that allows buyers at gun shows to bypass background checks.

"I am also betting that the majority, the vast majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible few from buying a weapon of war," the president said.

Indeed, the latest atrocity in Connecticut seems to have pushed public opinion toward a tipping point in which not even the powerful National Rifle Association can use its usual "slippery slope" argument to block meaningful gun control reform.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted after a gunman armed with three guns, including an assault weapon and hundreds of rounds of ammunition loaded in high capacity clips, opened fire on helpless elementary school students, showed that while seven in 10 Americans believe the Second Amendment allows for individual gun ownership, an equal 70 percent said they supported "some restrictions on gun ownership," while still maintaining the right to keep and bear arms.

Going forward, it would seem that reinstating the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, or Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Protection Act of 1994, would be a good place to start.

That measure, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi- automatic firearms, commonly known as assault weapons.

And while there is some debate about the efficacy of the ban, it was allowed to expire 10 years later, during the administration of President George W. Bush, when its supporters in Congress could not muster the votes to keep the law from being phased out.

There have been multiple attempts to renew the ban, but no bill has reached the floor for a vote yet.

Now, however, the time seems right to get the same or a similar law passed again and several Democrats have introduced assault weapons bans in both chambers of Congress to do just that. …

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