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Votes

Within Constitutional Limits

Our newly minted senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine, gave the best response I have heard to those who argue that the Second Amendment is an absolute right to own guns. As Senator Kaine wrote in an opinion column in the Virginian Pilot last week, “A Virginian, James Madison, drafted the Bill of Rights, and we in the commonwealth believe strongly in the Second Amendment. But just as we know that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech gives no protection to slander or child pornography, we also understand that the individual right to bear arms is tempered by a responsibility to society” (http://hamptonroads.com/2013/04/let-senate-vote-gun-measures).

Senator Kaine deserves our commendation and praise for being willing to stand up and speak out on this contentious issue even though he is being vilified by others in online media for his principled stand.

It appears that the Senate may move forward on legislation to require background checks for gun purchases. Such legislation has broad public support and, as long as the details are not filled with loopholes, should be passed. Equally as important is the need for a ban on assault-type military weapons and high volume magazines. In announcing his support for such a law, Senator Kaine wrote, “There is no piece of legislation that will eliminate violence; but if we take concrete steps, we can make our communities safer.”

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) published a very informative and heavily documented paper recently, “Protect Children, Not Guns: The Truth about Guns.” Among its documented findings, a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide, suicide, and accidental death. Not surprisingly, guns make violence more deadly. They cite a study that found that “guns make killing easy, efficient and somewhat impersonal, thereby increasing the lethality of anger and violence.” The Children’s Defense Fund stated that better enforcement of gun safety laws is needed but is not enough. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is forbidden from regulating the sale and manufacture of guns. Loopholes in background check laws allow many people to get weapons without any check. The CDF contends that common sense gun safety laws help reduce gun violence while protecting the legal use of guns. I encourage everyone to read the full text of this paper at http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/state-data-repository/the-truth-about-guns.pdf.

The time is now for the Congress to act responsibly on gun-related issues. Public opinion is overwhelmingly on the side of taking action, and that action can clearly be within constitutional limits. Hunters will still be able to have their rifles and shotguns. Hobbyists and collectors will still be able to obtain the guns they love. Law-abiding citizens will not be inconvenienced. Please join with me and others in local groups who are working to end gun violence. As Senator Kaine ended his column, “If we miss this opportunity, it will only be a matter of time before we are awakened again by the next gun tragedy to hit the evening news.”