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U.S. senators shouldn’t let the National Rifle Association kill background checks and trafficking penalties.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
An assault weapons ban? Already gone. A ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines? Not politically viable.
And when the Senate returns to work in Washington this week, more moderate gun control measures that have overwhelming public support will be in serious doubt of surviving.
How quickly the memory of slaughtered children fades when gun lobbyists bend lawmakers’ ears.
The Senate is scheduled to take up gun control legislation this week, though that chance was fading last week as quickly as Republican resolve. But, if and when the issue gets to the floor, the Senate is expected to be asked to pass near-universal background checks on gun buyers — a measure with broad appeal, at least outside the halls of Congress.
Senate Republicans have threatened a filibuster unless private sales, such as to family and friends, are exempted. Actually, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul — hopefuls for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination — have threatened to filibuster any gun control legislation that comes to the floor.
Perhaps needless to say, the National Rifle Association — which once supported expanded background checks — is now opposed.
Yet a nationwide Quinnipiac University poll taken on March 7 shows 88 percent of voters favor universal background checks — down from 92 percent in its February poll, but still an overwhelming majority. Among gun owners, 85 percent are in favor.
Likewise, a bill to make gun trafficking a federal crime had picked up bipartisan support in Congress in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. But it, too, is in peril, thanks to a proposed revision being floated by the NRA that critics say would gut it.
Virginia’s Sen. Mark Warner, a popular Democrat who has long had the support of the commonwealth’s sportsmen, took a courageous stand for tighter gun laws after the Sandy Hook shootings. That may well make him a target of NRA lobbyists, along with other Senate moderates from states where responsible gun ownership is an accepted part of a rural culture.
Warner, who will seek re-election next year, should hang tough. A recent poll shows he continues to ride high in the public’s opinion, enjoying a 51-35 percent advantage over popular Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in a hypothetical Senate race.
Warner has earned a lot of political capital in Virginia. Spending some to keep high-powered guns from the “bad guys” would be worth a lot.
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