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Ethics & Religion
February 22, 2018
Column #1,905
Gun Legislation Finally Possible
By Mike McManus

For the first time in decades, there is hope Congress will pass laws to reduce gun violence.

First, President Trump met with six students and parents from Parkland, Florida where 17 students were killed. Though he is an ardent NRA supporter, he promised to be "very strong on background checks."

Cary Gruber, father of a Parkland student implored the President, "If you can't buy a beer, you shouldn't be able to buy a gun." Trump indicated he supported age restrictions for buying assault weapons.

Julia Cordover, student body president at the Parkland school, tearfully told the President that she "was lucky enough to come home from school," and added, "I am confident you will do the right thing."

The day before his White House meeting, Trump directed the Justice Department to move to ban devices like the rapid fire "bump stocks" used to speed up the firing of assault weapons, making them virtual machine guns in last year's Las Vegas massacre of 58 people. The White House also indicated the President was looking at a bill that would strengthen background checks.

However, Sen. Diane Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Federal Government lacks the authority under current law to ban bump stocks. She noted that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has repeatedly said it lacks authority to do so, undermining Trump's recent conversion.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, TV news aired footage of student survivors of the violence marching on the Florida state Capitol, calling for tougher laws. Three buses from the Parkland school went to Tallahassee, the state capital. However, as they were on the road, Florida legislators swiftly rejected an effort to debate an assault weapons ban. Republican legislators voted it down on a straight party-line vote.

Republicans indicated they would consider a more modest proposal to raise the minimum age to buy assault weapons, such as the AR-15.

Yet the atmosphere among students was optimistic. "This shooting is different from the other ones," said Daniel Bishop, 16, one of the bus riders. "At Sandy Hook, they were elementary school kids. Virginia Tech was 2007, a different time zone. But this one, I just have a gut feeling- something is going to change."

His sister, Julia Bishop, 18, who sat next to Daniel on the bus, asserted, "We definitely have a moral obligation to do something, considering that so many innocent people we know have passed. These adults, these politicians, these lawmakers, these legislators - they were supposed to protect us. And they didn't."

What's truly remarkable is that students have become passionate about the gun issue in many cities without a recent tragedy. Underage protests popped up in Bakersfield, CA, Toms River, NJ, Battle Creek, MI, in Iowa City - and across the whole South.

What has united spontaneous protests from students across America - are the impassioned pleas of young Parkland survivors.

In Bakersfield, CA a dozen students were joined by 80 adults to march on President's Day in support of stricter gun laws. On the same day, more than 200 students marched out of school in Iowa City and walked to the Old Capitol downtown.

What gun control reforms are most needed?

First, the sales of weapons created for war, such as the AR-15 should be banned altogether. It is not enough to simply raise the age for purchase from 18 to 21. AR-15s are not designed for hunting - but to kill as many people as quickly as possible.

In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump wrote, "I generally oppose gun control, but I support a ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period for purchase of a gun."

Second, much tighter federal background checks for gun purchases should be universal. At least a fifth and perhaps a third of gun sales are not made by licensed gun dealers but are purchased at gun shows without background checks - or, even worse, on line.

The Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children and 6 adults prompted Connecticut to pass
tough background checks and banned weapons with more than 10 bullets, and barred sales of 150 high capacity weapons. The result: a drop of Connecticut gun homicides from an average of 92 per year to only 53 killings in 2016.

Mandatory comprehensive background checks and the banning of sales of high capacity weapons will save thousands of lives.

We must thank students for their "Never Again" campaign. One held a poster, GUNS DON'T DIE. Another: OUR BLOOD - YOUR HANDS.

___________________________________

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to  www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.

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