Editorial: Keep momentum going on gun control
Mass gun violence has stained the nation’s conscience. Congress should seize this moment and pass overdue, reasonable gun control.
Seattle Times Editorial
WHEN gun-control legislation became the issue of the day in Olympia and Washington, D.C., this winter, few would have expected it would gain more traction in our dysfunctional Congress than in our blue-state Legislature.
Where Olympia failed to take a stand for common-sense gun control, the U.S. Senate, for all its foibles, took the first step toward ending the National Rifle Association’s destructive grip on gun-violence politics.
The Senate voted last week to end filibuster on Sen. Harry Reid’s S 649, and is poised to vote next week on a bipartisan compromise struck by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, to end the so-called gun-show loophole with mandatory universal-background checks.
A sheaf of proposed amendments — including bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines and some semi-automatic firearms — will test the fortitude of gun-control advocates.
We’ve reached a rare moment to address this politically difficult subject. Gun violence has stained the nation’s conscience. The parents of Newtown, Conn., school children, who have become effective gun-control advocates, know the cost of doing nothing.
Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have been consistent advocates for reasonable gun control. Both voted for a now-expired ban on assault weapons and favor limiting access to the types of weapons and ammunition clips used to kill in Newtown, in Aurora, Colo., and in Tucson.
This debate will likely seize the nation’s Capitol for weeks. The final bill must include vital support for the nation’s public mental-health system, and should incorporate amendments to support more community mental-health centers, suicide prevention and treatment for child victims of trauma.
Mental-health care should not be wrapped in gun politics, because that perpetuates the stigma of mental illness. But advocates should seize this moment nonetheless.
In the coming weeks, expect to hear inflammatory rhetoric claiming background checks create a de facto gun registry, which will lead to the feds coming to seize guns.
That is bogus. The Manchin-Toomey deal explicitly bans a gun registry and penalizes any effort to create one with a 15-year federal prison sentence.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia opened the door for this bill in a 2008 ruling, writing that it should not cast doubt on “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” Scalia wrote. “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
The U.S. Senate should seize this moment that the state Legislature let slip away.