If these basic steps can be taken — and some of the requirements for background checks and notification of multiple sales of more deadly weapons can be done by executive action or executive order, and do not require legislation — we would go a long way toward a sensible regimen balancing the rights of gun ownership with the responsibilities that come along with it, and limiting in some ways the carnage that now is becoming sadly commonplace with these instances of mass murder.
Of course, it would be nice to go further. Many years ago, I wrote a column lauding the idea of the late, great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., to limit bullets and not guns. Guns last forever; bullets do not. To be sure, bullets kept under pristine conditions can be functional for decades, but most are not. There should be ways to limit and track ammunition purchases, even as we ban completely the sale and availability of cop-killer bullets and other deadly ones.
A few decades ago, the National Rifle Association was willing to have a dialogue at least about the responsibilities of gun ownership and to discuss reasonable boundaries. Then the Gun Owners of America outflanked the NRA on the right, challenging its supremacy in the gun world. It responded by making sure no one would be to the right of the NRA — and thereby abdicated its role as a responsible interlocuter. It will be fascinating to see whether, in this new climate, it doubles down on obduracy or returns to the table.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.