THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION and other opponents of gun control have launched a fierce campaign against some firearms-tracking rules that the Tresury Department has proposed.That's rather odd because the rules would do just what NRA keeps telling government to do; crack down on illegal gun uses and leave legitimate owners alone.
Treasury's plan is meant to help officials trace guns used in crimes and find out where firearm leak from commercial channels into illegal paths. The rules call for a unique serial number on each new firearm, including future imports. Licensed manufacturers, importers and dealers would have to report quarterly on the disposition of each gun. Thefts and losses in commerce would have to be reported at once.
That's all. Dealers would not have to report the names of legitimate gun purchasers. Gun owners would not have to report or register anything. You won't learn that, however, from the NRA's alarms. They call the plan "a massive system of centralized national firearms registration" and seldom acknowledged that the only guns in commerce and irregular departures from those channels - would be tracked.
Spurred by misinformation, opponents of gun control have bombarded Treasury with some 200,000 letters against the plan. Congress is also being bombarded. The House appropriations panel has answered its mail bybarring Treasury from spending any funds to carry out the rules this year. To underscore the point, the panel also cut the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau's budget by $4.2 million - the estimated cost of implementing the plan.
The House reaction is overkilled, too. Treasury officials maintain that, with the rules not yet adopted, they had not requested any money for the plan. A $4.2 million cut would hit other programs, they claim. Moreover, they have pledged that, when the guntracking effort is ready, they will ask Congress for funds and give the lawmakers a proper shot at it.
We hope that Treasury will stick to its course. However, before the full House or Senate does vote on the plan, a lot of public education will be required to over come the distortions and hysteria generated by the NRA. The point needs to be made that Treasury's target is the criminal use of guns. Perhaps some Congressmen could answer their mail by pointing out that in 1976, according to the FBI, 18780 people were murdered in this country - and about 12,020 of those murders (64 per cent) wer committed with guns. That is the overkill that really has to be stopped.