Momentum Forcommon Sense
Ever since Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders, six teachers, his mother and himself in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012, right-wing political extremism has prevailed over the obvious need to get a better handle on gun access. In the wake of that previously unimaginable slaughter, Congress not only rejected a modest bill to expand background checks for gun purchases, but many state legislatures made it easier for anyone to acquire deadly weapons. Today, one day before the first anniversary of the slaughter of 17 students and teachers at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the effort will begin in Congress to determine if the pro-gun-control result of the 2018 election will bear fruit. Of 62 freshmen Democrats in the U.S. House, 49 made better gun control part of their platforms in 2018, and many emphasized it. The election also affected many state legislatures. At least 20 of them are considering bills to eliminate loopholes in background checks, establish “red flag” laws to enable due-process-backed temporary seizures of weapons from people who threaten gun violence and, as even in gun-loving Pennsylvania, to require people under protection orders or convicted of domestic abuse to turn over their guns. Sen. Pat Toomey, who sponsored the post-Newtown effort for broader background checks, believes likely passage of the expanded background checks in the newly Democratic House will put pressure on the Senate, where 22 Republican-held seats will be on the ballot in 2020. Expanded background checks do not deny anyone the right to bear arms legally; but the process has a proven track record of denying weapons to people who should not have them. This is a broad public safety issue rather than a narrowly partisan one. Congress finally should close the background check loopholes.