Targeting gun violence

President Barack Obama’s proposals to reduce gun violence have provoked the usual emotional rhetoric from both sides of the gun-control divide.

However, because of the murders last month in Newtown, Conn., there appears to be increased enthusiasm for acting now. Some of Obama’s ideas deserve bipartisan support, while others may not even win solid support from his own party.

There’s nothing, though, in Obama’s measures that propose or even hint at confiscating guns. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

The most controversial parts of his proposal would reinstate the so-called assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004 after a decade. Along with it, the ban on high-capacity ammunition clips for many weapons would also be re-established.

As we’ve stated before, the assault-weapons ban would likely pass constitutional muster if a clear enough definition of the weapons to be banned can be written. But there’s little evidence that it would be effective. Several studies done during and after the 1994-2004 ban said it had little impact on gun violence. One government study suggested that strategic crackdowns on hotspots for gun crime and frequent perpetrators of gun violence would be more effective.

Although there is reportedly some GOP support for banning the sale of high-capacity ammo clips, which we believe is sensible, there’s almost none for the assault-weapons ban. And, because even some Democrats are said to be skeptical, that seems the least likely part of Obama’s agenda to be approved.

Also contentious will be Obama’s plan to require or encourage background checks for all gun sales, even between private parties. Many don’t believe it’s enforceable unless all guns are registered, but the political appetite for universal gun registration is minimal.

Among the measures most likely to win bipartisan support are those that deal with mental health and gun violence.

Obama wants to make it easier for states to share information about people who are considered dangerously mentally ill with federal authorities conducting gun background checks, and for mental health professionals to share concerns about potentially violent patients with law enforcement. He also wants to fund a program to identify high-risk youngsters and provide more mental health assistance for them.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s efforts to identify, share information about and treat those with dangerous mental illness go even further and deserve national consideration.

Obama’s proposals to give law enforcement better tools to deal with gun violence are sensible and should win backing even from law-and-order conservatives.

Finally, the president proposed boosting the number of law enforcement officers available for schools and aiding schools and educators in being prepared to handle gun emergencies, something many conservatives support.

Obama’s plan for dealing with gun violence won’t be enacted in total. Nor, as the president said, will it end all gun violence. But there are many reasonable ideas in the plan that deserve broad support.


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