To the Editors of The Crimson:
The April 15 Crimson editorial concerning the current federal gun decontrol bill contained inaccuracies of both tone and content which I feel painted a distorted picture of the legislative history here. You missed a chance to provide some education amid your declamation.
I don't deny that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a highly motivated minority that outguns its opponents out of all proportion to public opinion on this issue. But the vote last week in the House actually represents some old fashioned horse trading and some setbacks for the NRA, much of it thanks to the efforts of Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.), chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
Rodino has been fighting the decontrol bill all along, and pushing his own bill to tighten restrictions. For Rodino, as for most law enforcement officials, the crucial issue is restricting handguns--as opposed to rifles and shotguns--as well as ending the insanity known as machine gun rental, available since 1934.
On both counts, the House bill is a significant improvement over the sham bill the NRA blew by the Senate last summer. The House bill retains the ban on interstate handguns and ends forever the sale and transfer of machine guns. It also keeps open the possibility of surprise inspections for gun dealers. All of these have been hotly contested by the NRA, and hearings or no hearings, many Congressmen were wise to the implications.
Currently, a hunter who wanders over state lines--say between Idaho and Montana--while chasing elk has committed a felony. The NRA has made much of such idiocies in our gun laws in its efforts to roll them back. Cleaning up details like this, and allowing hunting weapons a little freer rein is arguably not such a "cave in" to the minority.
But you were probably right to be a bit hard on Congress. It has held its ground, in this case, against handgun decontrol, but hasn't had the guts to do what's needed: clamp down on all future transfers of handguns whatsoever, just like the machine guns. As I wrote in the December Perspective, we are a big country and we should choose our toys more carefully.
Still, the scene isn't as bleak as you implied. The House and Senate bills must be reconciled, and the NRA must slog through many more negotiations before it is close to its goal. Handgun control groups, championed by Sara Brady, wife of wounded Reagan aid Jim Brady, are still in the fight.
If we can push the NRA back, bit by bit, the vote last week may have been the first step. Accordingly, interested though I am in the issue, I found Tuesday's editorial rather hysterical, and less than enlightening. Kyle Chadwick '87
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