We need tough gun safety measures, starting with bans on assault weapons and on high-capacity ammunition clips. And we need background checks before all gun purchases.
President Barack Obama stepped up Wednesday with a resolute and necessary call for those measures and more. He commissioned Vice President Joe Biden to lead a group of cabinet members and others in preparing recommendations to reduce gun violence. Obama said he wanted the proposals no later than January and vowed to “push (them) without delay.”
That sense of urgency is needed. There is no more time for dithering, not when the victims of the latest gun massacre are being buried in child-sized coffins in Connecticut.
The weight of the presidency will help immeasurably. But some members of Congress remain stuck in the grip of gun promoters, who have enjoyed great success in selling their false claim that the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to purchase guns and ammunition that were designed for soldiers, not hunters and homemakers.
The Star’s editorial board asked the U.S. senators representing Missouri and Kansas and members of Congress from the Kansas City area whether they would support bans on assault weapons and high-capacity clips. (Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp, from western Kansas, also volunteered his position — strong opposition to enhanced gun safety measures.)
Unfortunately, the responses followed the same partisan divide that so frustrates Americans.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, both Democrats, said they supported the bans, although both said we also need to look at other factors, such as mental health.
None of the Republican leaders who responded to our inquiries said they were open to a ban. (We were unable to obtain responses from Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas; Rep. Kevin Yoder of Overland Park and Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri. We will continue asking.)
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas issued statements showing a sudden concern for the mentally ill, while skirting the issue of gun safety. Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Topeka also focused exclusively on mental health.
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, of Harrisonville, expressed sympathy for victims’ families in Connecticut and said, “there will be plenty of time in the weeks and months ahead to address issues of how best to protect our children.”
Plenty of time? Gun violence kills more than 10,000 Americans a year, and many of the victims are children. A 4-year-old boy, Aydan Perea, was on life support Wednesday in Kansas City, the victim of an apparent drive-by shooting. Two police officers in Topeka and one in Missouri were shot to death in the line of duty over the weekend.
What on earth are we waiting for?
Certainly a renewed focus on mental health is helpful and needed. But America must face up to its gun problem. We must ban the most dangerous weapons and come up with new policies to promote more responsible gun use overall.
Most Americans understand this. It is time our elected representatives do as well. Let’s help them by speaking out — sportsmen, responsible gun owners, parents, faith leaders, everyone. Tell our leaders we want strong gun safety measures and we want them now.