Gun Control Now

`IF you pass the Brady Bill, I'll sure sign it."

No single line in President Clinton's speech before Congress last week got a more fervent response, coming after applause when the president intoned, "We need to pass a tough crime bill."

What these statements lack in eloquence they more than make up for in timeliness and necessity. The president's challenge should be taken up this year, while people sense change is possible. The dangers that easy access to guns leaves unchecked must end. By some estimates, there are nearly 200 million guns in the country. Metro sections in newspapers nationwide are filled weekly with reports of shootings and murders. Historians may someday look back on the current capacity of gangs to arm themselves, or the ability of 18-year-olds to buy weapons instantly over the counter, as a kind of social insanity.

Guns are not the root of violence, but they make violence possible in a way other weapons do not. Guns are taken from youths in Mogadishu by US Marines on the same grounds on which they ought to be curtailed in the United States: They cause fear and chaos. In many rural states guns are viewed as a natural tool or a sporting item. Should submachine guns like the Tec-9 or Cobray M-11 that spray 1,000 rounds a minute therefore be for sale? These weapons aren't for hunting deer or scaring coyotes.

Nor would federal laws such as a Brady Bill calling for a five-day waiting period on the purchase of handguns deny any constitutional rights. The Second Amendment states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Responsible citizens will not find their constitutional rights infringed by federal laws that track weapons, or limit their purchase, or stop interstate smuggling. Such laws will make people 's lives safer.

To turn the National Rifle Association's ad slogan around: Who are the people who support gun control? They are school superintendents, head surgeons at hospitals, chiefs of police, pastors, coalitions of mothers and fathers, inner-city citizens and politicians.

These people deserve better laws to control guns.

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