JAMES EDWARD Pough, 42, of Jacksonville, Fla., was not the sort of person who should have had easy access to heavy-duty, rapid-fire weapons -- the kinds of firearms that have no proper place on the open civilian market anyway. Mr. Pough, who used a .30-caliber semiautomatic rifle for an office massacre Monday before using a .38-caliber revolver on himself, had a long criminal record, including an arrest in a murder outside a bar in 1971. But the charges were reduced to aggravated assault and the case settled without a formal conviction -- which could have kept him from getting a gun permit. Mr. Pough was thus able to buy himself a mean little collection of firearms -- two of which were used in Monday's 50-shot rampage. Police also have confirmed that the same rifle, held by a man matching Mr. Pough's description, was used in the shooting deaths of a prostitute and her pimp north of downtown Jacksonville early the day before.
So what does this say about laws banning assault weapons and providing for background checks on purchasers of firearms? As always, the Sell-Any-Weapons-Anywhere School of Congressional Lobbyists will tell the world that this just goes to show that the laws don't and won't do any good.
Trouble is, the police around the country who have been coping with a series of mass shootings in the past several years by lone gunmen -- and who are battling drug operations that are armed with assault weapons -- believe absolutely otherwise. Dry up the legal supply of these weapons, and at least make the illegal purchases that much more difficult. That is sort of what laws do -- they don't guarantee crime-free living, but they just might cut out a thing or two.
More and more lawmakers in the states and in Congress are standing with the police on the banning of these weapons, which have no legitimate uses, and on waiting periods, which will allow efficient, useful checks on criminal records of would-be firearms purchasers. That's not a disarming of law-abiding citizens -- it's a sensible, civilized matter of public safety.