Placing blame — staff editorial

National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston spoke at Georgetown University Wednesday, voicing opposition to sensible gun control measures. Laws that would require background checks on gun buyers and require gun manufacturers to include safety locks on all models would undoubtedly save lives, but Heston and the NRA refuse to budge.

Heston contends that the recent outbreak of gun violence would be remedied if existing gun laws were properly enforced. The NRA argues that more gun laws are unnecessary and will lead down a slippery slope, infringing on the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Clearly, NRA officials are desperate. National and grass roots efforts have made headway, which has led to important gun control legislation and even deals with gun makers. The Maryland State Senate passed a bill that would make it the first state to require safety locks on all guns sold in the state. Also, Smith and Wesson, a gun manufacturer, recently agreed to include safety locks on all guns within 60 days and child safety locks within three years. Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening, who led the charge for his state’s law, and Smith and Wesson should be commended for leading the way on the gun control issue.

NRA official Wayne LaPierre has levied some absurd charges against President Bill Clinton, a gun-control advocate. Citing the president for the 1999 shooting death of Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Birdsong, LaPierre said that Clinton had blood on his hands because the murderer could have been prosecuted on gun charges before the incident. Worse yet, LaPierre said Clinton was willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda.

To contend that Clinton wants gun violence in order to pass gun control and gun safety measures is absurd. Clinton is merely responding to an issue that merits national attention in good faith – LaPierre is the one trying to use the recent tragedies to his advantage in the political arena.

Unfortunately, it seems to have taken gun-related tragedies in affluent suburban neighborhoods to make middle- and high-income Americans aware of the devastating effects of gun violence – a problem that has plagued inner-cities for decades. But most importantly, gun control is quickly becoming a national debate – one that the NRA is losing.

The right to bear arms should be protected, but common sense gun legislation, such as laws requiring mandatory safety locks and background checks for all gun purchases, would save lives without seriously infringing on the rights of gun owners.

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