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Opinion | Ready to Nag About Gun Control?

There are so many ungodly cases you really have to do something unique to get attention. Recently in Pennsylvania, three people were fatally shot in a fight over snow shoveling.

Two F.B.I. agents trying to execute a search warrant in a child pornography investigation were killed by the suspect, who happened to have an assault rifle on hand. Perhaps you remember assault rifles. They’re the rapid-fire, military-style guns — extremely efficient for a mass shooting — that Congress refuses to ban. Or now, anyhow. Back in 1994, it prohibited the manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons, under the leadership of Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Joe Biden.

The ban, alas, included a 10-year expiration date, a compromise to placate the ever-popular Tiny Group Of Swing Votes In The Senate. Nothing could get our nation’s leaders to bring it back, even a mass shooting of six educators and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary.

There’s not much doubt Biden is eager to get some serious reform underway. “His heart is on his sleeve when it comes to this,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Sadly, there often seems to be a gap between the issues Biden really, really cares about and the ones he’s actually going to do something about. But even if he charges ahead, there’s only so much he can do by executive order, and whatever it is won’t have the staying power of real legislation.

If we’re lucky, sometime this year a gun bill — at least a modest one toughening up background checks — will make it to the Senate. In between paeans to the Second Amendment, opponents will tell the nation that their constituents want to have weapons on hand to defend themselves and their families from evildoers.

You do wonder how the founding fathers would have felt about the right to bear arms if they knew their nastiest neighbor had just installed a printer that manufactures guns in his basement.

The stories about how a Gun Saved The Day aren’t generally all that convincing. The Heritage Foundation recently ran a list of 11 incidents in which “a gun stopped matters from getting worse.” One case involved a robber who threatened employees at a pizza restaurant in Georgia. The workers won the day by grabbing another gun and catching him off-guard. It was indeed good news. But the fact that the workers were able to get the gun because the holdup man decided to use the restaurant bathroom before leaving with the money was … kind of a help.

One problem with our gun debate is that it has the wrong starting point. Let’s raise the bar. Demand that nobody be able to purchase a gun without passing a test demonstrating she knows how to aim it. You’d be astonished at how many enthusiastic owners that would eliminate from contention.

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