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The Way to Control Guns

Background checks, waiting periods, and clear goals

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Calls for gun control have never been louder. A majority of Americans favor stronger gun laws. More police chiefs and governors back them. Progress toward curbing commerce in firearms is moving forward in many states. California has new laws that limit handgun purchases to one a month and ban the sale of assault weapons.

Yet gun control still swims against strong political currents, especially in Washington.

That's because those lobbying against increased regulation of guns, representing a vocal minority, are highly organized, highly motivated, and well-funded. But the recent mass shootings in America have given new energy to the antigun side. Pressure on political candidates to face this issue in the 2000 campaign is already rising.

Candidates should expect to give something more than pro forma endorsement of such measures as background checks on gun purchasers, on the one hand, and standard anti-gun-control slogans, on the other.

The leading GOP presidential candidate, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, chimed in with one of the latter recently, intoning that the best way to reduce gun violence is to "make sure we prosecute" people who commit crimes with guns. How does that keep guns out of the hands of alienated teens or hate-group fanatics?

No, most Americans would like to hear a well-thought-out plan of action to get a grip on the country's gun problem. Here's a suggested road map:

*Enact a bill already approved by the Senate mandating background checks of purchasers at gun shows. The House version doesn't have this measure, and its inclusion in final legislation is problematic. Incredibly, these shows, which account for millions of gun transactions each year, are virtually unregulated.

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