Will and weapons CNHI file AP

Mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, have increased the pressure on Congress to pass gun control leiglsation, including universal background checks.

Guns: 393.3 million in U.S. civilian hands.

U.S. Population: 326.4 million.

Translation: 120.5 guns for every 100 Americans.

Consequence: 40,000 gun deaths annually.

Mind-boggling figures compiled by the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.

No other country is even close — in volume of weapons or death by firearms.

The root cause of the horrible carnage over less than 24 hours this weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, was due to the usual demons — easy availability of guns, the rise of hatred and sick minds.

Thirty-one more innocent people added to the nation’s swelling calculation of murder by mass shooting. Scores of others injured. Is any city or place safe?

When is the moment of truth? Sandy Hook wasn’t. Parkland wasn’t. Las Vegas wasn’t. Pittsburgh wasn’t. Virginia Beach wasn’t. And on and on.

It is past time to confront reality. To deal forcefully with this epidemic of tragic death, we need prompt and reasonable federal gun control. To wit:

  • Background checks for all civilian gun sales and transfers, including private party and gun shows. Review period of at least 10 days. No exceptions.
  • Prohibit the sale of firearms to persons with proven mental health issues. This is the so-called “red flag” approach designed to keep guns away from those not mentally fit to handle them.
  • Ban the sale of military-style, semi-automatic assault weapons to civilians. Automatic weapons are already illegal. Congress passed a federal assault weapons ban in 1994 but then refused to renew it after 10 years. The NRA objected to the ban. That was a mistake that discounted public support for the ban.
  • Restrict high capacity bullet magazines to no more than 10 rounds. Mass shooters have used 30-round magazines. The Las Vegas killer had a number of 100-round magazines.

The U.S. Senate must act now. The U.S. House approved universal background checks and separately the 10-day review period in February. Republicans must insist Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put partisan politics and NRA intransigence aside and call for a vote on the legislation.

This is not a political issue. Or a Second Amendment issue. It is a public safety issue, clear and simple. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans, as high as 90 percent in one survey, support universal background checks.

None of these gun control measures take away the right of an eligible citizen to buy a rifle or a gun for self-defense, skeet shooting, target practice or hunting. They do put the public interest ahead of the NRA’s special interest.

In point of fact, as sad as it is, we are not winning the fight against mass shootings. We are in a cycle of grief that cries out for solutions. Yet the answer is always the same — inaction.

Show courage this time, Congress. Do something about the root cause of this contagious, deadly violence in America. Make this your moment of truth.

Bill Ketter is senior vice president of news for CNHI. Reach him at wketter@cnhi.com.

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