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U.S. Opinions: Milwaukee

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Amid a new arms race, let’s craft sensible laws

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday:

An arms race has begun in the United States, a trend that anyone concerned with the proliferation of weaponry should find concerning. This state’s Department of Justice’s background check hotline for handgun purchases handled 60 percent more calls through Dec. 23 compared with the same time the previous year; total calls have far outpaced last year. People are racing to buy guns either out of fear in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., or because they fear government controls.

As the debate begins once again over gun control, we think lawmakers should focus on what is likely to work and not on feel-good legislation that will only allow them to claim they “did something.”

While we’d have no problem with a ban on assault weapons, the fact is that there are already many of these weapons in the hands of civilians. Banning the sale of this gun would do very little to prevent the next Newtown massacre.

Instead, we’d focus on two other areas: banning high-capacity magazines and offering a generous buyback program to take some of the existing large clips out of circulation and closing the notorious “gun show loophole” that allows roughly 40 percent of gun sales to be conducted without a federal background check.

Banning high-capacity magazines, by itself, won’t prevent another Newtown, either. But it could help make it harder for a determined killer to get his hands on one, especially if coupled with a buyback program, as has been done in other countries and some American cities.

And forcing more gun sales into the light of day would help make it harder for a deranged killer to legally buy a weapon. The sale of ammunition also should be more tightly controlled.

We also still firmly believe that President Barack Obama’s task force on gun crimes needs to make mental health services part of this discussion.

These are very difficult issues both morally and politically. But in memory of 20 innocent children and seven adults who died at the hands of a disturbed killer, we must do better than we have.

The views in U.S. Opinions are not necessarily those of the Observer’s editorial board.
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