Smarter guns or none

Michigan: Six-year-old killer takes charge of the debate, defines America for much of the world.

March 02, 2000

GUN MAKERS and retailers should support the smart gun development that Gov. Parris N. Glendening promotes for Maryland and that President Clinton endorsed after the killing of one six-year-old by another in Michigan on Tuesday.

Kayla Rolland is dead as the logical outcome of several things being wrong. Not least is the profusion of weapons for murder in American homes.

The "good gun" to deter crime becomes the object burgled, and after illegal sale, a "bad gun." A bad gun kept by a bad adult is easily taken by an innocent child who knows only what he or she sees on television. Would reasonable gun laws or child safety locks have kept the suspected six-year-old shooter from being raised in poverty, in a broken home, in a flophouse or in a depressed region? Probably not.

But we can say this much for sure: A six-year-old blowing away a six-year-old is what much of the world expects from American culture. It fits the reputation we have earned as a people. But it is not what we expect from ourselves.

A survey, reported yesterday, showed more than half of Maryland voters favoring an outright ban on private handguns. Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. has called for one. What was recently unthinkable is now being discussed and even popular.

Today's measures will not prevent all tragedies tomorrow. Too many millions of guns are out there, lacking child-proof locks or owner recognition, ever to be retrofitted. But the right reforms will start reverse the trend.

People who promote gun ownership ought to get behind the movement to make guns safer, fewer and better controlled. If reasonable measures are thwarted, democratic society will demand more drastic remedies.

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