The wry saying about many things in life is that half a loaf is better than nothing. On Capitol Hill, the loaves can be divided into much smaller bites, and every round of baking takes too long.
But if we can get maybe one-third of a loaf on new measures to avert gun violence in American schools, we’re for it. And we commend U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, for joining a group that includes Democrats and even some fellow Republicans in the kitchen.
The gun safety framework is an alternative to a much more stringent bill passed by the U.S. House, where the Democratic majority can more easily pass legislation. The Senate’s filibuster tradition makes compromise the order of the day in the upper chamber, so a bipartisan deal is about the only way that parts of the House proposal might ever make it into the statutes.
“I joined these negotiations to ensure any agreement addressed illegal gun violence while upholding due process and protecting law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” said Cassidy, who has made it a practice of late to get involved in crafting such bipartisan compromises. “This agreement upholds that commitment."
The GOP senators on board include a number who are either not seeking reelection or are just reelected, the latter including Cassidy. That is a testament to the fear of a political backlash among ultraconservative voters, even though polls show most Americans support much stronger gun laws — especially in light of massacres like that at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The Senate proposal would impose modest restrictions on gun purchases, including funding for states to adopt so-called red-flag laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed a danger. There’s currently no such law in Louisiana, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has voiced support for the idea.
It would also provide money for a number of mental health initiatives. Perhaps that is not a cure-all for the social ills that lead young men to become killers, but there is no reason why — as part of the compromise brokered in part by Cassidy, a physician — Republican lawmakers should not be supportive of such changes, even if they don't go as far as the Democratic House bill proposes.
The House bill would bar the sale of semi-automatic weapons to anyone under 21, a provision that might have stopped the 18-year-old gunman in Texas. And it would prohibit the sale of large-capacity magazines and enact a federal red-flag law.
We believe that some measures along the lines of the House bill should be adopted, and it is clear that those would not be confiscatory of guns, and thus run afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
Too many dangerous weapons are too easily obtainable in America. Most civilized countries do not permit legal possession of these weapons.
Children, as well as adults, are paying a high price.
We agree with Chief Murphy Paul of the Baton Rouge Police Department: “We don’t need fully automatic weapons on the streets of Baton Rouge, there is no use for them.”
And we wish that wisdom from law enforcement were better understood on Capitol Hill.