Is meaningful gun control essentially an impossibility in Washington? We posed that question to our readers last week, after the mass shooting in Las Vegas led to a now-predictable pattern in the nation’s capital – with Democratic lawmakers calling for new gun-control measures, Republicans saying it was wrong to politicize a tragedy, and no one expecting much of anything to happen in the end. This time, there may be bipartisan support for a narrow ban on bump-stocks, a device used by the shooter that essentially can turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. But even that is far from guaranteed. So what, if anything, can and should be done about the issue?
Many readers wrote in to say that they would support a ban on all military-style weapons. “I own both handguns and rifles,” writes Bill Miller of Pinole, Calif. “Assault rifles should not be legal anywhere. These guns are not for hunting…. No gun should be sold that can be modified into a fully automatic weapon.” Suzy Sharpe, of Sacramento, Calif., agrees: “I am relieved (although do not own any guns myself) that my single-mom daughter owns a handgun and a shotgun in the neighborhood where she lives,” Ms. Sharpe writes. “I do not understand, though, why anyone should be allowed to own an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.”
A large number of you also said you would support universal background checks. “Any legislation that will keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, criminals, children - anyone with the potential to do harm, is a blessing and necessity,” writes Lynn Garnica of Berkeley, Calif. “Driving a car requires registration, proof of insurance, and possession of a license which is intended to prove that one can safely drive a car. Cars can be deadly. There are far better oversights for use of cars than for guns.”
On the other hand, some readers questioned the likely effectiveness of gun-control measures: “Laws, ordinances, rules and regulations do not (and cannot) prevent anything – they can only prescribe penalties for their violation,” writes Andrew Watson of Tucson, Ariz. “We prohibited the sale of alcohol. That certainly worked well, didn't it? We have prohibited most recreational drugs and stringently limited access to the rest. Another triumph.”
And some expressed concern that any attempts to push through major gun-control legislation would seriously worsen the nation’s political divide: “If the federal government attempts to enforce major gun controls at this time, big social problems will occur,” writes an Atlanta reader. “Things are bad enough … now. I don’t wish to think about how bad things would get if the alienated groups [move further to the fringes].”
Many of you suggested that it may be time for some outside-the-box thinking on the issue. Jeff Gordon writes that perhaps new terminology is needed: “It seems we need to move the conversation from gun ‘control’ to something else,” he writes. “The term ‘regulation’ should be verboten as well.”
What about an entirely new approach, such as adopting a model in which citizens have access to weaponry by participating in the National Guard, but have to leave their weapons on site? “Here's an idea. Let the individuals who now legally qualify to own firearms in the US own any weapon they want to own, including tanks and artillery, but with one qualifier: Bring back the first 13 words of the Second Amendment, and don't allow any automatic or heavy weapons to be kept outside of a National Guard armory,” suggests Roger Poulson. “Limit bullet clips to something reasonable for hunting. Broaden the qualifications for National Guard membership. Let people as an ‘organized militia’ practice using their weapons in an organized way, but limit offensive weapons that can be kept in the home.”
Others see a need for the two sides to try to come together – literally – instead of approaching the issue from separate camps, suggesting that moderates join the NRA and try to encourage change from within.
These answers were solicited via the weekly Politics newsletter, a free curated collection of articles from the Monitor and beyond. If you would like to subscribe, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. (The automated form for subscribing is temporarily out of service while we transition to a new system for newsletter distribution.)