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Common-sense gun law.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Typically, horrific gun violence made possible by this nation's ridiculous gun laws puts the National Rifle Association in full counterattack mode, ready to resist the slightest hint of legislative restriction. Not that much counterattacking is necessary in a Congress so cowed by the the NRA that all it takes is a threatening e-mail from NRA Executive Vice President Wayne Lapierre to send timid lawmakers scurrying for their smelling salts.

Which makes it all the more noteworthy that the NRA has seen its way clear to support the first new federal gun-control legislation since 1994 - siding with congressional Democrats, no less. After a mentally ill gunman killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech University with handguns he shouldn't have been able to purchase, the NRA agreed to let Congress tighten the law.

The Virginia Tech gunman, Seung Hui Cho, should have been barred from buying handguns after a Virginia special justice deemed him "an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." But the state of Virginia never forwarded that information to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and his background check came back clean. The April 16 campus slaughter revealed a deadly loophole in the 13-year-old background-check program.

Even more ominous, only 23 states are currently participating in the NICS database. The recently approved House bill would provide money to states to update the national database and would withhold federal grants from states that do not comply. Don't make the mistake of thinking the NRA has suddenly gone soft on gun rights. The organization made it clear that it's supporting a tightening of existing regulations aimed at "keeping the guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally defective and people who shouldn't have them."

It isn't a new gun control measure, according to the NRA. Furthermore, the NRA extracted troubling concessions before agreeing to support the new requirements.

About 83,000 military veterans placed in the database for mental health reasons will be allowed to contest their inclusion. Given the skyrocketing incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq war veterans, this process has to err on the side of public safety.

Still, the efforts of House Democrats and Republicans would likely have gone nowhere without the NRA's backing, and that makes this a compromise worth celebrating. It's impossible to forget that after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999, lawmakers in thrall to the gun lobby actually reduced the window for background checks on gun buyers at gun shows to 24 hours. This spineless regulation means that if a background check on a potential gun buyer is not completed within 24 hours, the sale is approved automatically.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it might even be strengthened. President Bush needs to put aside his reservations about the estimated $250 million annual cost and make sure these new safeguards become law.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; NRA support helps bolster background checks
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 27, 2007
Words:493
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