Twelve miles away from Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were massacred a little more than two months ago by a gunman, Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that "There is a moral price to be paid for inaction" in response to that tragedy. Inaction is the desired goal of many in Washington, but across the nation the demands for a moral response have not abated.
The vice president, making the case for President Obama’s proposed new laws addressing gun violence at a forum at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, was joined by Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, who revealed his own gun law proposal based on the president’s. Governor Malloy will introduce a law requiring background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on large-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds, an extended ban on assault weapons, and tougher enforcement measures for current gun laws.
Governor Deval Patrick is advocating a toughening of Massachusetts’ already sound gun laws and New York state recently passed some of the best gun laws in the nation in response to Newtown. There is no substitute, however, for strict federal gun laws, as it only takes one state like New Hampshire with weak gun laws to undermine the efforts of neighboring states. States must do their part and Washington must do its as well.
In 1996, the British Parliament responded to the murders of 15 school children by a gunman at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland with the passage of sweeping new gun bans that all but eradicated gun violence in the nation. More than 200,000 guns and 700 tons of ammunition have been taken off the street since, and according to a Washington Post story last week, police say that criminals in search of firearms are reduced to rebuilding antique weapons, making homemade bullets and "renting" some of the fewer than 1,000 illegal weapons still in circulation. The NRA adage that if guns are banned only criminals will have guns has been proven wrong in Great Britain.
It will be proven wrong in the United States as well, but only if enough elected officials in Washington have the moral fiber to act.