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Mail-order arsenal

OVER the years Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Strom Thurmond seem to have disagreed on practically everything. When the two of them agree to sponsor jointly a bill in Congress, one might think that the measure seeks wide support. Indeed it does. And it deserves it.

The Kennedy-Thurmond proposal, backed by several other senators, is an attempt to deal with a new problem cropping up among America's youth: exceptionally dangerous martial arts weapons that are inexpensive and can be mailed, apparently legally, throughout the United States.

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Most are in fact exotic knives or other small and easily concealable weapons, with virtually no peaceful use; police say they are beginning to show up in the streets as weapons wielded by the law-breaking young.

The problem is sufficiently serious that 12 states have banned or restricted the possession or use of these weapons, and several other states are considering similar steps.

A loophole exists, however, which enables youths to obtain the weapons anyway: It is legal to ship the weapons through the mail. Further, some martial arts magazines advertise their mail-order sale.

The Kennedy-Thurmond measure would make it illegal for these weapons to be shipped into states that ban them. The proposal is strongly supported by many responsible martials arts instructors and organizations, as well as by an increasing number of police chiefs.

Some parents, also backers of the measure, have sent the senators order forms for the martial arts weapons that their youngsters had filled out and planned to mail.

The weapons are not only potentially lethal but extremely inexpensive. Most sell for well under $10, and one for less than $1: Thus they are affordable by youngsters.

The Senate should approve this bill without delay; so, too, should the House and White House.

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Further, those states in which possession of such weaponry is still legal should make it illegal.

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