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January 11, 2011

Time for Stricter Gun-Control Laws

Listed in: Other Domestic Policy, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally Published in Politico’s Arena

By David A. Harris, President and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council

Members of Congress carrying weapons with them wherever they go in their districts? Yes, this is precisely what we need—because surely a better-armed citizenry, and introducing more weapons into the mix, will ensure a safer country. Of course this overlooks the key truth that we are the best-armed country on earth, yet somehow—as this weekend’s tragedy reflects—we understandably do not feel safe all too often.

As anyone who has ever fired a weapon at a cardboard target senses deep down, and as any well-trained law enforcement officer knows of a certainty, there is a tremendous, vast difference between knowing how to hold and shoot a handgun and knowing how to use that weapon successfully to defend yourself and others in a high-pressure, life-or-death situation, as law enforcement officers train and prepare to do. Civilians who think they can defend themselves and others in emergency situations—without killing innocents, injuring themselves or getting their gun taken away from them—are only deluding themselves. And the consequences can be tragic.

High-capacity ammunition magazines—such as the one the shooter apparently used in Saturday’s horrible tragedy, and the ones others have similarly used in other massacres—have but one purpose: to kill many humans at a time, and to do so quickly. There is no sporting use for them, and individuals have no more right to bear these particular high-capacity arms than they have to own howitzers, mortars or nuclear weapons.

Godspeed to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and Sen. Frank Lautenberg. But we know that in today’s political climate, and given the realities of a GOP House, making progress on these common-sense gun safety measures will be tough.