On Saturday in London, 29-year-old Muhyadin Mire allegedly launched a terrorist attack, motivated by radical Muslim beliefs, in a subway station. Two people were stabbed with a knife, one seriously injured, but his victims are not dead. That is likely because Mire had no semiautomatic rifle, or even a pistol. Mire is also alive to be questioned on his motives, plan, accomplices and indoctrination because police were able to subdue him with a stun gun.
Guns are difficult to get in England and Europe, far harder than in the United States, both legally and illegally. And much more expensive.
Organized and well-funded terrorists, such as the ones who unleashed the Paris attack that killed 130 people on Nov. 13, will always be able to get weapons, but just because reasonable restrictions cannot stop all carnage, does not mean restrictions cannot and should not stop some attacks.
The violence that recently erupted in Paris, and three weeks later from a lone gunman at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and then in San Bernardino, led to fresh calls for new restrictions on who can buy weapons and which ones they can buy. Much of the debate centers around a Senate plan to stop people on the Department of Homeland Security no-fly list from buying guns. The legislation failed to pass last week but supporters will try again.
Much of the opposition relies on misinformation, including a claim by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio that the law would ban 700,000 Americans on the list from buying guns. In fact, experts say only about 10,000 Americans are likely on that list. The rest are foreigners. So let’s make sure it’s a legitimate list, with expedited appeals for people unfairly on it, but let’s pass a law that anyone on it can’t buy guns.
That’s a reasonable restriction some GOP candidates, including Donald Trump, Chris Christie and John Kasich, are warming to. Others, such as Rubio and Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, voted against it.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Supreme Court declined yesterday to hear a case challenging a ban of semiautomatic assault weapons, including AR-15s and AK-47s, by Highland Park, a Chicago suburb. There is often one clear reason why the top court can’t muster four votes to hear a case, but so far it has declined to review local bans on assault weapons, suggesting a majority of justices are reluctant to get involved in the political debate. The court’s 2008 Heller decision noted there was no constitutional right to all weaponry and acknowledged the “historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”
We cannot reject all gun restrictions on grounds that individuals or groups bent on violence will find a way. Reasonable laws would require universal background and mental health checks, ban the sale of the most mass-murder enabling guns and crack down on straw buyers purchasing guns for resale. They would stop some attackers by making weapons harder to buy legally and more expensive to buy illegally, while maintaining the right of law-abiding Americans to purchase appropriate weapons and ammunition for security and sport.
As much as possible, those with violent plans to get guns, like terrorists, felons and delusional attackers need to be stopped. The fact that we won’t be able to stop them all doesn’t change that.