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Nation of laws must protect the rights of the lawful

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: January 18, 2013
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IN laying out his ideas for curbing gun violence, President Barack Obama urged Americans to ask their elected officials whether they back renewal of a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. “And if they say no, ask them why not,” Obama said.

Oklahoma's congressional delegation was glad to explain why. All seven made it clear Wednesday they're not fans of Obama's proposal to reinstate the assault-weapons ban that was in place from 1994-2004. They're concerned about protecting the Second Amendment, for one thing, but they also may wonder, as we do, what difference such a ban would actually make.

The original ban had no significant effect on reducing gun-related violence, which is one reason lawmakers allowed the ban to expire. The Wall Street Journal on Thursday noted that defining the term “assault weapon” poses a problem, and so does the U.S. Supreme Court, which twice in recent years has upheld an individual's right to bear arms for commonly used guns. The AR-15, the weapon Adam Lanza used in Newtown, Conn., fits that description, with about 2 million in circulation.

The Journal noted: “The government is empowered to ban ‘dangerous and unusual weapons,' like machine guns and surface-to-air missiles, but it also needs to explain how any of this will prevent the next Newtown.”

The truth is that simply banning some guns and ammo won't make a difference. What might make a difference is something else the president proposed, which touched on the issue of mental health. Obama wants to use federal funding to support state programs that seek to identify high-risk youths and to train mental health experts who focus on children.

That's an idea members on both sides of the aisle should be able to support. Similarly, many of the 23 executive orders the president signed Wednesday aren't likely to cause much of a ruckus. It's his recommendations requiring congressional approval that are more political than practical. Indeed the president milked the politics for all it was worth by lining up a handful of school children to join him for the announcement.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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Instead of repeating the failed policies of the past, Congress should work on thoughtful and constitutional ways to prevent unspeakable tragedies like this from happening again. The fact that almost every public mass shooting tragedy occurs in a place where guns are prohibited shows that restricting Second Amendment rights tends to disarm everyone but the assailant.”

Sen. Tom Coburn,

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