December 24, 2012

Gun safety advocates ready for action

The Connecticut tragedy brings to light proposals to reduce gun deaths that are years in the making.

Melanie Mason / McClatchy Newspapers

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One option to strengthen background checks could be to close the so-called gun show loophole, which exempts buyers who purchase firearms from non-licensed sellers, often at gun shows, from going through a check.

"Individual-to-individual sale is for all intents and purposes not covered under federal law," said Jim Kessler, co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank. Kessler said Congress should act to encourage all gun sellers to transfer weapons responsibly, or face legal consequences.

"If you're selling a gun to somebody without a background check and that gun is later used by that person in a crime, you're more liable in our view than the bartender who is selling more drinks to a drunk person and handing them keys to their car," Kessler said.

That policy, sold slightly differently, could appeal to gun rights advocates, said Richard Feldman, president of the Independent Firearms Owners Association and a former political director for the NRA.

If sellers who perform a background check are shielded from liability, just as federally licensed sellers are, "then there's an additional incentive. The gun owners get something out of it," Feldman said. The provision would be a way to "protect and preserve gun shows," he added.

Feldman said it was harder to find common ground when it came to banning certain types of weapons or ammunition.

"All guns can do the same thing. A 10-gauge shotgun is as devastating as any rifle," Feldman said.

Coming from the Thursday meeting with Biden, Adler said he was encouraged that the administration's efforts were not "couched around the simple premise of reinstating the assault ban."

"It isn't that simple, unfortunately," Adler said.

But Adler said he left the meeting optimistic that this time, there would be action.

"Everyone was emotionally touched by what happened. The emotion of it serves as some form of catalyst," Adler said. "We're all going to be a little more open-minded in terms of evaluating what we can actually do."


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