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Tim Blagg

Congress fails on guns

Uniform policy, end loopholes way to go

I can’t say I’m surprised at the fact that a proposed federal ban on assault weapons has failed to get enough support in Congress to go forward.

And I have to say I’m not particularly disappointed, either.

I’ve never thought such a ban would affect, one way or the other, the possibility of another Newtown-like mass attack.

That’s not to say nothing can be done to make a mass murder less likely, just that an “assault weapon ban” isn’t the way to go about it.

But before I go on, let’s take a look at that failure. Polls show that some 58 percent of Americans favor a ban on military-style weapons, as well as on high-capacity magazines.

In a truly representative democracy, one would think that this sort of unanimity would make the ban a shoo-in.

Instead, representative after representative, senator after senator, caved in — either to pressure from lobbies like the NRA or to arm twisting from their leadership.

In addition, the leverage exerted by the current rules on filibusters would have allowed even a minority in the Senate to squelch an entire “gun control” bill.

So what’s left of the effort to tighten our federal system after the horrendous massacres of the last few years?

Democrats hope to expand the criminal background check system and cracking down on “straw purchasers” who buy guns in wholesale lots for resale to criminals.

That would be good, but there are still too many loopholes.

As I’ve written before, the crazy-quilt (and I use that metaphor deliberately) system of state laws has to be superseded by a comprehensive set of federal rules that incorporates the best regulations in existence.

And the ATF — the agency ultimately responsible for enforcing federal laws on firearms — needs to be fully staffed and funded, and the ridiculous checks on its regulatory powers that have been systematically added over the past few years by radical Republican lawmakers have to be removed.

As right-wingers are so fond of saying, there are plenty of gun control laws on the books now — but they fail to point out that they’ve worked hard to make sure they aren’t enforced.

And I also believe that there is a strong state role in making schools safe that is not being fully explored. State regulations about things like closed circuit TV cameras and positive, rather than passive, control of access, and funding for local police officers stationed in schools could all go a long way toward making another Newtown less possible.

Of course, there is no certainty in any of this, and there are plenty of horrible stories about people attacking others with ordinary kitchen knives.

But uniform laws that close current loopholes, coupled with better school security, could at least close a few doors that are all too wide open at present.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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