Editorial: Pull the trigger on background check proposal

Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 9:30 am

Nine in 10 Americans believe that background checks should be mandatory for gun purchases. But this week the prospects were dim on whether the U.S. Senate would even get a chance to vote on the issue.

An April 4 Quinnipiac University poll showed 91 percent of voters support universal gun background checks. Nearly the same percentage of voters (88 percent) in households with guns also support the measure.

Even so, a block of Republican senators threatened earlier this week to filibuster any new gun legislation.

We hope they will see reason.

Requiring background checks for gun purchases seems like a no-brainer. It’s common practice in Virginia in gun stores. What it protects against is the “gun show loophole” that the commonwealth is rather well known for.

It’s difficult to legislate hot-button issues, especially those related to freedoms spelled out in our country’s founding document. Proposals to ban currently legal semi-automatic assault rifles and to cap magazine limits likely infringe too far on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

Though there is little practical use for such weapons – a shotgun is an equally efficient home defense tool, as is a large, ill-tempered dog – they’re currently legal and it’s hard to reverse course on such a touchy issue.

Keeping such weapons out of the hands of the wrong people – criminals, the mentally ill, juveniles – is a different issue entirely and should be voted on. While it of course can’t prevent acts of senseless violence – most of recent history’s mass shooters would have passed a background test – requiring consistent background checks on a federal level would be a step in the right direction.

According to The Washington Post, the obstructionist Republicans reportedly sent Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) the following message: “The Second Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens’ right to self-defense…It speaks to history’s lesson that government cannot be in all places at all times, and history’s warning about the oppression of a government that tries.”

We wonder what history would think of refusing to vote on an issue that 90 percent of Americans support?

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