The following editorial appeared in Thursday's Washington Post:
Barely 24 hours after a first-grader shot another to death in an elementary school, the gun-horror spotlight shifted Wednesday to a suburb of Pittsburgh, where a man went on a lunchtime rampage at two fast-food spots, then held hostages in an office building before surrendering. Unrelated incidents? Or can anyone in Congress connect the dots between the handguns in both places?
Lawmakers no doubt will wring their hands about the violence, issue calls for a control here and a registry there -- and head off for a spring break. When it comes to the estimated 65 million handguns in America -- weapons of choice in about 80 percent of firearm homicides -- controls are a joke. The firearms industry is exempt from basic federal consumer product health and safety regulation. Yet these concealable weapons kill more Americans every year than all household and recreational products combined, as noted this week by the Violence Policy Center. In urging a ban on the general sale of handguns, the center points up the disproportionate degree to which the handgun has inflicted pain and death in this country. In countries that strongly regulate private ownership of firearms, especially handguns, such death rates are dramatically lower.
Gun lobbyists defend handguns as a great means of self-defense. Yet according to FBI data cited by the center, a person living in a home with a gun is three times more likely to die by homicide and five times more likely to die by suicide than someone in a gunless household. In 1997, only 2.3 percent of handgun homicides were classified as justifiable homicides by civilians.
Nor is the nation as sold on the lobbyists' arguments as some lawmakers believe. In Maryland, a recent survey found more than half of likely voters favor a ban on handgun sales in the state. Yet no such proposal is pending in the General Assembly. When will this disconnect end in the United States?
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