Editorials

Will Congress still cower before the NRA?

In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif.
In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. AP | Rich Pedroncelli

Our country makes it easy for almost anyone to buy military-style weaponry designed to kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time.

The Internet makes it easy for extremist militant groups to inflame violent and gullible individuals, such as Omar Mateen, who opened fire in an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning and killed 49 people, or the couple who in December killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., and afterward were praised as martyrs by Islamic State propagandists.

Indeed, as ISIS loses ground on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, the more likely the murderous group becomes to incite “lone wolf” attacks on civilians in the United States.

For 10 years, from 1994 to 2004, Congress banned the manufacture and sale of the kind of weaponry unleashed in Orlando and San Bernardino.

The same lethal combo — AR-15 rifles, the civilian version of the M-16, and high capacity magazines — also was deployed by the attackers at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a cinema in Aurora, Colo., where the killers’ motives were unrelated to any ideology other than what their twisted psyches might have spun.

The easy access to such weaponry since 2004 is almost an invitation to mass bloodshed.

Yet Congress has steadfastly refused to act. Not only has Congress refused to restrict the weaponry of mass murder, it has refused to beef up background checks which now miss 40 percent of gun sales and has refused even to lift the ludicrous ban on funding research into gun violence and how to prevent it.

Our elected representatives would rather have the blood of Americans on their hands than risk the wrath of the National Rifle Association.

No right is absolute or unlimited. The First Amendment is limited by laws against libel and slander. Fourth Amendment rights may be suspended in times of national emergency. The courts have approved limits on the right to bear arms. Just last week two federal appeals courts in separate cases ruled that there is no constitutional right to carry a concealed gun. Yet it’s harder to buy allergy medicine than weapons of mass murder in this country.

We can begin to reduce the harm from unlimited access to unlimited firepower with common sense laws at the state and federal levels, if only our elected representatives would act.

The largest mass shooting in U.S. history should jar Congress from its complicity. Instead, the public will have to lead, or the politicians will continue to cower before the gun manufacturers and NRA, the master of cultivating political hysteria.

Overall gun violence in the U.S. is lower now than in 1990 but mass shootings and suicides by gun are on the rise. We’re smart people who can use the power of government to protect us from the kind of hateful terrorism that was unleashed in Orlando, where in addition to 49 dead, 53 people were wounded.

Kentucky has many responsible gun owners who are better than the NRA. They don’t want homegrown terrorists and other assorted crazies to have easy access to unlimited firepower. Their ideas and voices could be especially helpful in shaping common sense gun safety solutions.

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