Editorials

Congress still not really serious about gun control

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Three versions of the AR-15 assault rifle, similar to one of the guns used by Omar Mateen to kill 49 people in an Orlando night club.
Three versions of the AR-15 assault rifle, similar to one of the guns used by Omar Mateen to kill 49 people in an Orlando night club. AP

With 49 innocent people and one terrorist dead after last Sunday’s attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, Congress will nibble again around the edges of gun control.

They’re looking at easy stuff — although even after horrific shootings that should outrage everyone, no congressional discussion of gun control is easy.

Lawmakers won’t really be serious about this national problem until — if and when — they take on really weighty issues like an updated version of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said the Senate will vote on two Democratic measures, one to restrict gun sales to people on government watch lists and another to expand background checks on gun sales.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, said there will also be votes on similar Republican measures. All would need 60 votes to gain Senate approval.

Cornyn and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., each addressed gun sales to people on government watch lists in December. Neither got 60 votes.

Feinstein would prohibit sales to anyone on the lists. Cornyn would impose a waiting period during which the government would have to show cause why the sale should be blocked.

The National Rifle Association supports Cornyn’s bill.

Of course gun sales to terrorists in the United States should be blocked. The problem is that these proposals rely on government lists with more than a million names and no publicly available criteria for how those names got there.

Cornyn’s idea of a waiting period and a show-cause order has merit, but the period must be longer than the three days specified in his December proposal. The government needs time to put together evidence.

And of course the system of background checks for gun sales should be expanded. The exemption for people who buy at gun shows is a mockery of the entire background check system.

But it is the military-style semiautomatic assault rifle, the AR-15 and others made by several manufacturers, that has become the weapon of choice for mass killers. Fully automatic versions are highly restricted.

Assault weapon sales were banned in 1994, but Congress couldn’t muster the votes to renew the ban 10 years later.

It should be updated and renewed now. Failure to do so is costing precious American lives.

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