Gun control: weakened bill, weaker will?

If there’s proof of the power of the gun lobby in Washington and certain states, it’s the fact that an assault weapons ban has been stripped from the gun control bill in the US Senate. Only three months after the slaughter of 20 small children in Newtown, Conn., and in the wake of polls that show national support for a ban, it’s outrageous that senators couldn’t muster the needed votes to deliver sensible gun restrictions — potentially reducing the ability of mass killers to slaughter dozens of people at once, without limiting other people’s right to hunt, take target practice, or protect themselves.

The 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired a decade later, wasn’t perfect. Opponents have rightly noted that it relied on fuzzy definitions and offered easy workarounds for those with criminal intent, including a yawning loophole of a grandfather clause. But those are arguments for crafting a better law, not abandoning the concept altogether. In a different political climate, this might have been a chance for legislators to pull together a reasonable and practical compromise. As it stands, members of Congress should feel greater pressure to pass a law that includes tightened background checks and a limit on high-capacity magazines, two other measures that would help prevent future tragedies.

Hopefully, the decision by Democratic sponsors to remove the assault-weapons ban from the pending gun legislation is a sign that they believe a majority will support its remaining provisions.