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Gun control: Future hangs on misunderstood majority of gun owners

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A 30-something suburban aerospace engineer with studs in both ears, a fashionable haircut, and business-casual attire, Brinley says his right to buy and shoot AR-15s should never be curtailed, as bills in Congress now propose.

But, by the same token, he acknowledges there are fundamental problems with America's gun regulation system, citing holes in the background-check process and cross checks with mental-health records. That puts him at odds with the NRA's stated positions.

"OK, it's ridiculous to ban 10, 20, or 30-round magazines, but I'm not really sure who really needs a 100-round magazine," he says about a proposal to limit purchases of 10-round magazines.

After Newtown, there's indeed a new conversation rising from what appears to be a collective desire by Americans to heal the country's penchant for senseless gun violence.

The NRA will probably never back down from its absolutist "no infringement" stance on the Second Amendment, but polls and interviews with everyday gun owners suggest that even stalwart shooting range enthusiasts like Brinley see the current system as imperfect, even dangerous.

Integral to the president's push for "common sense" gun controls, then, is engaging an emergent breed of centrist, gun-friendly Americans on the fence about whether new controls will effectively thwart violence – or prove a political Trojan horse to disarm lawful gun owners.

Judging by the White House use of the term "gun safety" instead of "gun control," and given the release in early February of a striking picture of Mr. Obama blasting away with a shotgun at a skeet range, it's clear to many gun-policy experts that this misunderstood majority of gun owners and sympathizers may, indeed, hold the key to plugging the collective safety loopholes in state and federal gun laws.

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