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4 million assault weapons in America: That should be enough

March 14, 2013|By Paul Whitefield
  • A customer checks out a weapon at a sporting goods store in Tinley Park, Ill.
A customer checks out a weapon at a sporting goods store in Tinley Park, Ill. (Scott Olson / Getty Images )

Let’s just be clear: No regular American needs an assault weapon for home defense.

So why is there so much resistance on this?

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a ban -- introduced by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein -- on such weapons.

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It would, my colleague Richard Simon wrote, “prohibit the sale, import and manufacture of more than 150 weapons and ammunition magazines that can accept more than 10 rounds.  Those who legally own assault weapons -- 3.5 million to 4 million, by one estimate -- would be allowed to keep them. Sale of existing weapons would require buyers to undergo background checks.”

Which is a sober and common-sense approach. But how did it go over with the committee’s Republicans – and even some rural-state Democrats?

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the measure “jeopardizes the self-defense rights of law-abiding citizens.” And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said: “This legislation has been tried before. It really didn’t appreciably change things. The crooks are going to get the guns. And if you ever find yourself having to meet one of these crooks, I want to make sure you can defend yourself.”

Please. Just stop it.

No one is proposing that Joe Average American can’t buy a weapon for self-defense. Lord knows, we’re awash in guns. Handguns. Hunting rifles. Shotguns. And, yes, millions of assault weapons.

Feinstein’s bill, really, is just a drop in the armory. It won’t solve the problem of gun violence by itself. But it’s a step. It’s sensible. It’s doable. Basically, it’s saying, “Enough: 3.5 million to 4 million assault weapons in private hands is enough.”

And please, can we stop with the “crooks are going to get guns” stuff?  The gunman in Aurora, Colo., and the gunman in Newtown, Conn. -- who used assault weapons -- weren’t crooks; they were mentally unstable. Crooks we can deal with. Crazies are much tougher.

On Thursday, Republicans on the Senate committee urged better enforcement of the gun laws we have and renewed efforts to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Nothing wrong with that either. It’s also sensible and doable.

But there’s no reason we can’t do it all: Enforce the law, try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill -- and ban assault weapons.

It’s not a solution, but it’s a good start.

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