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Editorial: Sensible way to limit ammo sales

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. leads a news conference

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. leads a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington to criticize the sale of high-capacity magazines for assault rifles that are sold to the public. From left are, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lautenberg, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. (July 24, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

If ever there were a time to enact pragmatic restrictions on the sale of large amounts of ammunition, this is it. But despite the 12 people killed and 58 injured in a movie theater recently by a gunman who bought 6,000 bullets anonymously online, Congress is paralyzed.

The reason for that disgraceful dereliction of duty is clear: The gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, has Congress in a vise.

As a result, a commonsense bill like the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act that Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) announced Monday has almost no chance of becoming law.

The bill would allow only licensed dealers to sell ammunition. Buyers would be required to present photo identification, which would effectively eliminate online sales. And dealers would have to notify law enforcement when they sell more than 1,000 rounds to any one customer within five consecutive days.

That wouldn't keep deranged gunmen from opening fire, but it could save lives by alerting police to some potential mass murderers or by reducing a shooter's firepower.

Even Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the 2008 Supreme Court decision settling the question that the Second Amendment established a constitutional right to own guns, predicted in a recent interview that the court was ready to uphold reasonable restrictions.

But none will be passed in Washington as long as elected officials are too timid to stand up to the gun lobby's clout.