In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, Democrats in Congress have traded in solemn mourning for uncompromising action. Backing up this transition, on Thursday, The New York Times published an editorial on gun control legislation that denounced the National Rifle Association (NRA). It makes the powerful claim that “silence is killing us," while asserting that the NRA's lobbying efforts against gun safety legislation make the group “complicit” in acts of terrorism.
On Monday, a group of Democrats in the House made it known that they would no longer tolerate Republican policymakers' part in this complicity. When House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a moment of silence for the Orlando victims, a group of Democrats walked out, while some shouted, “Where’s the bill?" Two days later, Democrats in the Senate took it further, holding a 15-hour filibuster to demand a vote on gun control legislation.
The New York Times argued that these acts of protest are not directionless. Here are some of the measures outlined in its editorial which could potentially improve gun safety:
Closing The “Terror Gap”
Bills like the one proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein would allow the attorney general to deny the sale of a gun “to a known or suspected terrorist if the prospective recipient may use the firearm or explosive in connection with terrorism." Basically, it would make it harder for people on the FBI's watch list to buy a gun. Alternately, closing the terror gap could mean delaying the purchase of a gun to anyone on such a list, allowing time for a federal investigation.
The NRA did state in a press release: "Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing." However, in its editorial, The New York Times says that, despite bipartisan support, "Republicans on Capitol Hill, beholden to the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights organizations, voted [such legislation] down."
Universal Background Checks
The Orlando shooter was technically no longer on any watch list at the time of the shooting, so adding universal background checks wouldn't necessarily have prevented him from accessing guns. Still, the editorial suggests ways of expanding background checks to include barring prospective buyers from purchasing a gun if their check indicates a history of domestic abuse or mental illness. Even if these measures wouldn't have necessarily stopped the Orlando shooter, they could potentially save other lives.
Banning Guns With High-Capacity Magazines
The Orlando shooter used a gun with a 30-round magazine, which allowed for bullets to be fired at an incredibly high speed without having the be frequently reloaded. Some claim that controlling magazine capacity would be more effective than reinstating the 1994 ban on all assault rifles. According to a survey from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 60 percent of respondents "support banning the sale of large capacity ammunition magazines."