It's time to stand up to the National Rifle Association and enact common-sense gun control. Consider this: Every day in America, 13 children are killed by guns -- not injured, not hurt, but killed. Every day we suffer tragedy the equivalent of the one that took place at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. While Washington is counting the political winners and losers from the recent gun "debate," parents are frightened that their child may be the next victim.
Consider this: State agents at a gigantic gun show in California recently spent $4,000 in a matter of hours buying illegal assault weapons and machine guns and were offered a flame-thrower without once being required to submit to a background check. Consider this: California is expected to pass and sign into law a ban on Saturday night specials -- cheaply made handguns -- but Congress won't even consider it. Consider this: Eighty-five percent of Americans think handguns should be registered, but the Clinton administration won't propose it.
I believe it's time to take bold steps to protect our children, families and communities. Here's what America must do: First, ban the distribution, sale and manufacture of all Saturday night special handguns. Second, require registration for every one of the 65 million handguns in this country. Third, require licensing with a safety course for every person who owns a handgun. Fourth, prohibit gun dealers from selling guns in residential neighborhoods. Fifth, insist on mandatory trigger locks for guns.
These five common-sense measures will help us keep the handguns that kill people off the streets, know where handguns are and who is using them, and get the gun dealers out of neighborhoods where children can more easily get access to guns. And if guns are in the home, the danger of accidents will be lessened. In addition, we need background checks before all gun sales at gun shows and a limitation of handgun purchases to one gun a month.
The NRA's political posture is similar to the tobacco lobby's over the past decade -- arrogantly fighting actions that will save lives and plying congressmen with campaign contributions so they'll be more likely to go along. What is everyone so afraid of? The NRA has lost votes on concealed weapons in Nebraska, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Ohio, Minnesota, Kansas and, most recently, Missouri despite a $54 million campaign. Just recently, Michigan even refused to put a concealed-weapons initiative on its legislative agenda.
If politics is the art of the possible, it's time to expand the possibilities. Leadership should not be defined by symbolic gestures that allow us to talk about a problem, rather than beginning to solve it. Instead, it should take on issues that arouse passion and redirect that passion toward achieving the common good.
The fact is that most people of this country are way ahead of the politicians on this issue -- including most gun owners. Most people -- including gun owners -- understand the difference between guns that are used for hunting and sport and handguns that get used in the vast majority of murders, suicides and accidents. Most people -- including gun owners -- don't want gun dealers in their residential neighborhoods. And no parents -- no parents -- want their child to live in fear or exposed to the gun violence that has struck terror into households across the country.
As president, I promise that I'll stand up to the NRA, and the conventional wisdom, about what is politically feasible to reduce gun deaths in our country. Ultimately, the president must trust the American people enough to be honest with them about what needs to be done. In the end, it can't be about political victory or an issue for the next election. It has to be about something far more important -- creating a safer world for our children and families.
The writer is a Democratic candidate for president.