Editorial: Constructive debate needed on gun laws

  • Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:01 a.m.

A sweeping gun rights law passed in neighboring Georgia has left the state with largely unfavorable press as of late.

The law, however, doesn’t appear likely to change many people’s behavior. In the Peach State, you can now take a gun into a bar, an airport, a church and a school under certain circumstances. But how many people who weren’t taking firearms into those places in the past are now suddenly going to start doing so?

Most guns owners are sane people who use common sense, and Georgia’s law looks to expand rights for responsible gun owners.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the law allows people who “follow the rules” to protect themselves and their families from those who don’t follow the rules.

It’s a sentiment shared by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who told The State in February that “every resident should be allowed to protect themselves from criminals.”

That obviously makes sense. But what’s missing in the backlash against the Georgia law is a more fine-tuned debate about our national gun policies.

There’s obviously no magic wand to limit gun violence. But greater emphasis on issues such as background checks and a reduction in the size of magazine clips is sorely lacking.

It’s a divisive issue, but public opinion remains relatively clear. National polling indicates that a majority of Americans support tighter gun laws. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in December 2013 shows that over half – 52 percent – of Americans think laws governing firearm sales should be made stricter than they are now.

Responsible gun ownership shouldn’t be threatened. However, common sense still hasn’t prevailed when it comes to federal gun laws, and Congress has long held a reluctance to pass much needed reforms. That needs to change sooner rather than later.

This shouldn’t be a debate over responsible gun ownership. There’s a clear distinction between sporting arms used to hunt, hand guns that are kept in the home and the rapid firing firearms commonly used in mass shootings.

For instance, the gunman in the 2011 Tucson, Arizona shooting killed six people and wounded 14 by using a 9mm Glock that was outfitted with an extended magazine – one that contained several more rounds than even law enforcement would be equipped with. Yes, the murderer was mentally ill and prone to substance abuse. And while he could have obtained such a weapon illegally, he didn’t have to under federal gun laws.

While it’s impossible to stop the dark side of every disturbed person in America, that doesn’t negate the need for sensible legislation that finds a better balance than what we have now.

We need reforms that aim to reduce clip sizes, ensure people are held accountable for allowing people with psychiatry issues to obtain guns and deter the illegal sale of firearms.

While such legislation may create only a limited amount of change, it thankfully won’t take firearms out of the hands of responsible gun owners, and could ultimately mean the difference between a life saved and a life lost.

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