Local Editorials

Our view: It's time for Congress to enact tougher gun laws

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks to reporters July 23 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks to reporters July 23 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Less than a week after a gunman massacred 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the national government there began implementing sweeping reforms to the country’s gun laws, including ending the sale of semiautomatic rifles and introducing a buyback program.

It took only one horrifying mass shooting of innocent people to spark immediate change in that country. In the U.S., where such incidents have become almost common in schools, offices, places of worship and shopping centers, our government does nothing.

The difference? In America, we have the National Rifle Association.

The power of the national gun lobby in the U.S. is staggering. The money and organizational help it provides to lawmakers – almost all of them Republicans – is enough incentive to make lawmakers ignore the most strident pleas for action. The NRA has contributed millions of dollars over the years to several Republican senators, including about $700,000 to House and Senate candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.

On Thursday, mayors of more than 200 cities across the U.S., including El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Orlando and Parkland, Florida; Pittsburgh; and Annapolis, Maryland, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, adding their voices to the many who have called for the Senate to return to session to act on bills already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, which would require background checks for all gun purchases.

Polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans support background checks for all gun purchases. A Quinnipiac poll in 2018 put the number at 97%. They also show a majority of Americans support a ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 or AK-47.

After a week in which 34 people were killed and 54 wounded in mass shootings in public places in California, Texas and Ohio, McConnell has resisted calls from around the country to act. He also has accepted almost $1.3 million from the NRA over his 35-year career in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the slaughter goes on, and it will continue to do so as long as the gun lobby money continues to flow to those in power.

Certainly, there is a broad spectrum of views when it comes to gun rights. We support the Second Amendment and acknowledge that guns have a place in our society, serving purposes including for home and personal protection, as well as hunting.

However, they have become significantly more lethal as technology has progressed. That a person in America can legally buy a weapon designed to inflict maximum casualties on a crowd within a minute is an affront to common sense. It is having a bloody and horrifying effect on our society, and people are growing tired of seeing the scenario repeated time and again – orphaned children, parents who have lost their babies and survivors who may face a lifetime of pain from bullet wounds and post-traumatic stress.

The people have had enough. But the gun lobbyists at the NRA don’t care. They care only about their extreme pro-gun agenda, and use the large amount of money at their disposal to ensure that it is kept in place, no matter how high the body count grows.

It is time to say enough to the inordinate influence and deadly agenda of the NRA. The Senate must reconvene and act to protect Americans with commonsense reforms that preserve the rights of people to own weapons for legitimate purposes, but also make obtaining weapons harder for those who should not have them.

Background checks should be required for any gun purchase. “Red flag” laws that allow authorities to take away guns from unfit owners should be instituted.

The manufacture and sale of the most lethal sorts of weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines should be halted.

Most Americans support these proposals. Here in Illinois, our own communities have been affected by gun violence, including a shooting rampage that claimed five lives at the Henry Pratt Co. on Feb. 15 in Aurora, and another at Northern Illinois University in 2008, when five students were killed.

People want their government to do more to protect them. It can, and it must. It is time for Washington politicians to serve the people who elected them, not the NRA.

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