ONE OF THE perennial arguments against reasonable restrictions on guns is that legal guns don't often get used in crime. It is, the argument goes, not the owners of legal weapons who actually end up killing innocent people but those who are already in violation of federal gun laws.
The flaws in this argument were tragically highlighted this week when Byran Uyesugi of Honolulu allegedly took one of his many registered guns and killed seven Xerox employees at his workplace. The reality, of course, is that legal guns are no less deadly than illegal ones. A society that tolerates the easy collection of large stashes of powerful weapons also makes an implicit decision to tolerate large body counts as some number of gun owners let the tensions of their lives overtake their self-restraint. While such people will exist and pose dangers irrespective of federal gun policy, they would be a lot less dangerous without easy access to handguns than they are under current law.
One might expect that this week's shootings in Honolulu and Seattle would instill some sense of urgency in Congress about passing reasonable gun control legislation. But even the very modest measures currently under consideration are stagnated. What level of gun violence will be required before the ideological opposition to stronger gun laws gives way to common sense?
Generally speaking, the sale, manufacture and possession of handguns ought to be banned. Whatever liberty interest there may be in the ability to own these guns--and we do not believe the 2nd Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep them--it pales in comparison with the right to go to school or to work without fear of being shot. It will be of little comfort to the families of the victims in Hawaii that the right to keep and bear arms has been so vigorously protected by so many members of Congress.