Guns and Security

Gun sales in the US have shot upward since Sept. 11. The terrorist threat, presumably, sent many Americans to the gun shop in the belief that a firearm would provide an added measure of security for themselves and their families.

That's a questionable belief, at best. Guns are often a source of violence and tragedy within families, particularly if they're not safely stored.

Beyond that common-sense step, gun safety is a public issue that gets little public attention. States can partially fill this gap. Massachusetts, for example, has consumer-protection regulations that include handguns.

The Consumer Federation of America points out that at the federal level teddy bears get closer scrutiny from product-safety regulators than firearms. A bill languishing in Congress, the Firearms Safety and Consumer Protection Act, would help remedy that. It would enforce safety and manufacturing standards and restrict the marketing of guns that are disproportionately used in crime.

It's generally thought that such bills, always a hard sell in Congress because of the clout of the gun lobby, virtually have no chance now, with security uppermost in Americans' minds. Even legislation to close the so-called gun-show loophole - that allows handgun sales at such shows to proceed without background checks of purchasers - is given little prospect of passage. This, despite reports that terrorist sympathizers have made purchases at gun shows.

True, some polls have shown a recent slippage in public support for stronger regulation of guns. But most Americans, surely, can still see the value of measures to promote gun safety and check out gun buyers. Such steps will enhance everyone's security.

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