. . . and in the courts

Now the Morton Grove case, which the Supreme Court refused to review: The right of communities to attempt to protect their citizens generally from violence threatened by individual gun ownership appears reasonable on its face. Tested in Morton Grove was the Second Amendment ''right to bear arms'' provision , usually taken to mean state militia protection from federal interference, but often cited by gun advocates as guaranteeing individual rights of gun ownership. Gun advocates claim the US Supreme Court action was not definitive. But it was clearly a setback for them. Now it's up to the Illinois Supreme Court to rule whether the state's own constitution was violated by the Morton Grove ordinance.

A troubling flaw in bans like Morton Grove's is that they may not be effective. Few handguns have been returned to Morton Grove authorities. Taking merely symbolic action against handguns might instead underscore the weakness of bureaucratic steps to control them.

There are, manifestly, too many handguns. Too many of the weapons are designed for assault on human beings, not for legitimate use, as on a farm or in law enforcement. They endanger most directly their owners' circle of family and friends. They instill in society a foreboding that erupts into anguish at each new assault on a national leader.

There are, unfortunately, no easy ways to deescalate the domestic arms buildup, no precise formula for weighing the unintended harm from handguns against their effectiveness in deterring crime.

Other peoples marvel that the US, paradoxically, can show so much stability in its institutions and, at the same time, tolerate an abundance of private weapons and arms violence. They find it hard to see that gun ownership symbolizes, to many Americans, a broader sense of individual rights and protection.

Still, there should be no backsliding on efforts to limit the kind, availability, and use of handguns to legitimate purposes.

A decade and a half of experience shows that gun violence, like all violence, will not be curbed until the cause of violence - inharmony in our innermost thoughts, our homes, and communities - is replaced by a peaceable outlook toward ourselves and all others.

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