The Washington Post

The limits on the gun control debate

As you know, President Obama published an Op ed piece in the Arizona Daily Star over the weekend in which he called for a number of sensible gun control measures in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, including strengthening, streamlining and standardizing the national criminal background check system. One thing that Obama didn’t do in the piece, however, was call for a ban on the sort of high-capacity magazine that mazimized the carnage in the Arizona bloodbath.

It turns out there’s a reason for this: Such a reform simply isn’t on the table. Sam Stein reports that quiet discussions are underway among Obama officials about how to create a gun control measure that could win support from stakeholders on all sides. Sam noted that the discussions are focused mostly on the gun control version of “low-hanging fruit,” i.e., beefing up background checks, and added:

Though official talks have not yet begun, the Obama administration is expected to aim mostly at such low-hanging fruit, leaving issues like the legality of the high-capacity magazine -- which allows even pistols to fire more than 30 shots without reloading, and was used in the Tucson shootings in January -- to remain unaddressed for the time being. The principal debate, then, will likely center around the application of background-check standards to private dealers.

Now, there’s a legit case to be made that banning high-capacity magazines is not imperative to achieving sensible gun control reforms. Some gun control advocates point out that the vast majority of gun homicides are achieved without them. But in the wake of a bloodbath in which a deranged maniac was able to spray enough bullets into a crowd of innocent people to kill six of them and injure 14, it’s remarkable that a ban on one of the principal devices that made such a feat possible won’t even be part of the discussions.

If there ever were a time where this shouldn’t be the case, it’s after the Arizona rampage. Yet it is the case — despite the fact that even Dick Cheney is willing to entertain such a ban.

Go back to Obama’s Op ed and look how much time he needs to spend reassuring people that his sensible and modest suggestions for beefing up background checks don’t amount to a nefarious plot to take away America’s guns . He spends paragraph after paragraph telling readers that most gun enthusiasts are good, law-abiding folks who use their guns safely — as if suggesting stiffer procedures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals risks somehow suggesting otherwise. Throw in the political class’s inability to address high-capacity magazines, and it’s all another mark of how decisively conservatives have won the gun control wars, and of how far off the rails the national conversation about guns has strayed.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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