Editorial: Time to pass gun control

There was another tragic mass shooting on Wednesday. Seventeen people died in Parkland, Fla., when a 19-year-old former student armed with an AR-15 rifle and “countless” high-capacity magazine clips shot up a high school.

President Donald Trump blamed the tragedy on the teen’s mental state. Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he would work with state officials to make sure students are safe when they go to school and that “individuals with mental illness never touch a gun.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio offered prayers and condolences.

Not one of the leaders talked about gun control. Trump, Scott and Rubio weren’t about to get on the wrong side of the National Rifle Association, the most powerful lobby in U.S. politics. How else to explain the collective loss of common sense among so many lawmakers?

Common sense would dictate that Congress act to implement sensible gun control legislation, including a ban on weapons like the AR-15 and high capacity magazines that hold 30 rounds. Not only are those the tools the shooter used in Wednesday’s incident, but also, they were the weapons of choice in the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Police said the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting was purchased legally. In Florida, the AR-15 is easier to buy than a handgun. A handgun purchase requires a three-day waiting period, but anyone in Florida can buy an assault weapon from a store and leave with it that day, so long as the person is 18 and can pass a background check.

It wasn’t always this way. The AR-15 and high capacity magazines were banned from 1995 to 2004 under the so-called assault weapons ban. Congress let the ban expire in 2004.

The NRA and the politicians it funds like to argue that an assault weapons ban won’t stop mass murders. But any number of studies show the ban will significantly reduce the frequency of such shootings.

An analysis last fall by John Tures, a political science professor at LaGrange College in Georgia, showed that the U.S. endured 1.6 mass shootings per year when the assault weapons ban was in place. Since the ban was lifted, the average number has ballooned more than two and a half times to 4.18 mass shootings per year. And the number of victims in each mass shooting has spiked 33 percent as well.

And a study by professors at George Mason University, released last fall in the Journal of Urban Health, showed that assault rifles are used in 57 percent of mass murders and in 16 percent of police shootings. Add in polls that show a majority of Americans now support an assault weapons ban and you have a clear recipe for congressional action.

It is long past time for Congress to stand up to the NRA and implement reasonable gun control laws that data show will make Americans safer. Continued inaction is simply unacceptable.