Senate wisely rises above NRA pressure

It is time to inject some sanity into the ways Americans deal with guns. Let last week’s votes in the Senate be the beginning of a nationwide consensus on gun control.
The issue of gun control has again worked its way into the national political discussion. The tragedy last month in Littleton, Colo., left us looking for answers, something that could be blamed for the senseless murders. In an ironic coincidence, the National Rifle Association had scheduled its convention in Denver just days after the shooting. A nation stunned by the killings and overwhelmingly in favor of gun control was reminded that the NRA has stifled reforms for years.
Then, just last week, the U.S. Senate voted to require background checks on firearms sold at gun shows, in a 51-50 vote that saw Vice President Al Gore cast the deciding vote. Gore called the vote a turning point, but time will tell whether this vote is the beginning of the end of the NRA’s power.
Had the laws passed last week been in effect, they probably would not have prevented the tragedy in Littleton. However, their passage represents an important defeat for the NRA, which has seemingly lorded over Congress ever since 1994, when the Republicans were swept into the majority. It was argued then that the NRA deserved credit for the Republicans’ gains in the House and Senate. Now, the gun group may have to take credit for the GOP’s removal from power.
The nationwide consciousness has been heightened by the rash of highly publicized high school shootings in recent years. While the violent crime rate has been plummeting, shootings at schools have been brought to the forefront. It is these acts that have caused Americans to rethink how important their representative’s position on gun control is. What Democrats sense, and what Republicans fear, is that for more people, the gun issue has become a major one at the ballot box. Particularly for women voters, already a weak spot for Republicans, this issue matters.
It is time reasonable gun control measures be implemented in our nation. A vocal, well-organized minority like the NRA cannot be allowed to dictate policy for the rest of the country. Additional policies passed last week included a ban on the import of high-capacity ammunition clips and restrictions on children under 18 owning semi-automatic assault weapons. These are prudent measures, and it is time for the NRA to quit blocking laws that a majority of our nation supports.
The gun control debate has not ended in Congress. However, if the Republicans are smart, they will not stand in the way of these popular reforms. Just as the First Amendment does not allow one to yell “fire” in a crowded theater or sell child pornography, so too the Second Amendment does not grant carte blanche on the sale of weapons. People kill people, but our gun-crazy nation certainly gives them a lot more effective ways to do it. The time has come for common sense to rule in the gun control debate.