Congress: Pass the bipartisan gun control bill

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board (TNS)
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks at the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing at the U.S. Capitol on May 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/TNS)

The compromise gun control bill crafted by 10 Republicans and several Democratic colleagues is “more likely than not” to pass the Senate, Pennsylvania’s Republican senator said last week. One of the authors of the proposal, Sen. Pat Toomey, says that it will “protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans while making our communities safer.”

Congress hasn’t done anything like this since the 1990s — if it passes both the Senate and the House.

The plan would fund school safety and trauma programs, while making background checks for buyers under 21 more rigorous and adding convicted domestic abusers and people under restraining orders to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It will aid states to create or enforce “red-flag” laws, which authorize removing guns from those who pose a risk to others or themselves.

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It does not do two things many gun control activists and political leaders have called for. Including these items would have kept the sides from agreeing.

It does not ban assault weapons. Noting that millions of Americans own guns that could be defined as assault weapons, Toomey said that even some Democrats would oppose banning them. The bill also does not raise the age for buying guns to 21. The senator pointed to the millions of young people under 21 who don’t threaten anyone.

We urge the Senate and then the House to pass this legislation. It’s not a perfectly Republican or Democratic plan. Nearly everyone in politics calls for “commonsense” gun control. A crucial part of taking commonsense action is giving up something to meet the other side halfway and getting what you can get even when it’s not everything you want.

This doesn’t happen very often, when the debates are so polarized and the two parties seem to gain support among their bases from total opposition to each other.

We applaud the 10 Republicans’ willingness to break with their party’s long-standing opposition to any measures to regulate gun ownership. Their exaggerated view of the Second Amendment, used as a potent tool for winning votes, has cost lives.

But so has the Democrats’ desire for sweeping measures that would take away rights from the tens of millions of Americans who use guns for hunting and shooting competitions, and those like farmers who use them as tools for protecting their property. Their exaggerated rejection of the Second Amendment, also used as a potent tool for winning votes, has also cost lives.

None of the bill’s sponsors seems to have commented on whether it will pass the Democratic-led House of Representatives. Its fate there depends on whether the members of that chamber, especially the Democratic leadership, show the same pragmatism and moderation as the Senate’s 10 Republicans.