States' top cops split on adding more gun laws
But more attorneys general call for 'common sense' approach.
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One such piece of legislation, in Doyle's eyes, is a measure to end the "gun-show loophole," which allows people to buy handguns at gun shows without being submitted to background checks. Such checks are required for dealer sales in the state.Skip to next paragraph
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Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers (D) backs a similar initiative, which is now circulating for signatures - after it failed to pass in the state legislature.
Indeed, Mr. Myers sees a growing gap between the public and state lawmakers over guns. The school shooting at Thurston High in Springfield, Ore., followed by the one at Colorado's Columbine High, "have intensified public concern about accessibility to firearms,..." he says. "My guess would be that the majority of Oregonians would support more background checks."
Colorado has seen a greater focus on gun control, too, especially since Columbine, says Attorney General Ken Salazar (D). He has offered a package of proposals, along with GOP Gov. Bill Owens, to close the gun-show loophole and tighten penalties for "straw" purchases (buying a gun for someone who cannot legally possess one). But he recognizes that even these measures may not pass in the legislature: "It's a tough sell here in Colorado."
So Mr. Salazar is also stepping up enforcement by supporting Colorado's Project Exile - a campaign to crack down on gun crime, modeled after a successful program in Richmond, Va.
Most Republican attorneys general are solidly in the enforcement camp, but that is no longer a code word for "status quo." Many have boosted their enforcement efforts. Texas Attorney General John Cornyn (R) launched Texas Project Exile, to the tune of $1.6 million, funding eight new special prosecutors who will focus on criminals who use guns.
Yet enforcement isn't necessarily a straightforward path, either. While agreeing that better enforcement is a "key component," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) argues that the federal government must play the lead role in that area, because "guns are so easily ... transported from one state to another."
In fact, several attorneys general decry the disparities between federal and state laws - and the resulting difficulties in enforcement. In Iowa, for example, an individual convicted of a misdemeanor such as domestic abuse is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law, but not under state law, says Doug Marek, state deputy attorney general for criminal justice.
Likewise, differences between state laws can be problematic - particularly for neighboring states. "Effective gun-safety laws in this state do not do us any good if people can cross the border to get guns," says a spokesman for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D).
Still, if enough states go forward with gun-control measures, manufacturers could be forced to follow stricter guidelines across the board - giving state laws a national impact. "If 10 to 15 states enact legislation, I think industry will follow," says Mr. Marek.
* Jeff Kass in Denver contributed to this report.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society