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home : most recent : statewide implications October 17, 2017


10/8/2017 8:37:00 AM
COMMENTARY: It's time for common sense gun laws

Kelly Hawes, Herald Bulletin CNHI News Indiana Columnist

For more than 10 minutes Sunday night, a lone gunman rained bullets down on a crowd of 22,000 people gathered for a country music festival in Las Vegas.

He had meticulously planned his attack, checking into his hotel room days in advance and filling it with a cache of automatic weapons of the sort you might find in a war zone.

He stood 32 floors above the melee, killing and maiming victims he did not know and could not see. By the time the shooting stopped, at least 58 people were dead or dying, and nearly 500 were injured. All at the hands of a single man firing aimlessly into a crowd. 

Between the guns in his hotel room and those in his two homes, the man had nearly 50 weapons, all of them purchased legally. Does anyone really need that many weapons?

Some will argue that no gun law could have prevented Sunday night’s massacre, but shouldn’t we at least try?

Do we have to wait for the next mass shooting? Or the one after that?

The guns Sunday night’s killer used were equipped with so-called “bump stocks,” devices that effectively transform rifles into assault weapons.

And there are signs that our leaders in Washington might be warming to the idea of outlawing those devices. Even the National Rifle Association has indicated it might support such legislation.

But could we do even more? Could we prohibit the sale of assault weapons? Maybe even high-capacity magazines?

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. It’ll never happen. The NRA has too much power and our leaders in Washington have too little will to enact any meaningful reforms.

It's time to change that narrative. Americans should insist on it.

Some will tell you that our nation is sharply divided on the subject of gun control, but the fact is we’re not nearly as divided as those folks might think.

A survey last spring by the Pew Research Center found that 68 percent of respondents supported a ban on assault weapons and 65 percent supported a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Gun owners opposed both ideas, but not by an overwhelming margin. Forty-eight percent of gun owners supported an assault weapons ban, and 44 percent supported banning high-capacity magazines.

And on some issues, the survey found that gun owners and non-gun owners actually agree. For example, 89 percent of both groups support a law preventing the mentally ill from buying a gun.

Eighty-three percent of respondents supported the idea of barring gun purchases by people on a federal no-fly or watch list, and again, the numbers were nearly identical for gun owners and non-gun owners.

The same survey found that 77 percent of gun owners and 87 percent of non-gun owners supported the idea of background checks for guns purchased privately or at gun shows. It found that 54 percent of gun owners and 80 percent of non-gun owners supported creating a federal database to track gun sales.

And those were the results last spring, long before a man rained bullets down on a crowd of music lovers 32 floors below.

It’s time that we demand some common sense gun reforms from our representatives in Congress. Let’s start with the issues we agree on and go from there.

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