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PD Editorial: States ahead of Congress on public safety

In the 3? months since the Newtown massacre, several states have taken steps to protect citizens from deranged killers.

In New York and Colorado, legislators enacted restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the grisly attack at an elementary school in Connecticut where 20 first-graders and six adults died on Dec. 20.

This week, legislators in Maryland voted to require fingerprinting of gun buyers, and Connecticut lawmakers passed a law restricting magazines to no more than 10 rounds.

Connecticut also mandated background checks on all firearms purchases, expanded the list of illegal assault weapons and imposed registration requirements for people who already own banned firearms and magazines.

"In Connecticut, we've broken the mold," state Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. said. "Democrats and Republicans were able to come to an agreement on a strong, comprehensive bill. That is a message that should resound in 49 other states and in Washington, D.C. And the message is: We can get it done here, and they should get it done in their respective states and nationally in Congress."

The agreements in New York, Maryland, Colorado and Connecticut are consistent with public support for universal background checks and laws outlawing magazines holding 15- or 30-rounds that are larger than anyone needs for sport or self-defense. California has had similar restrictions for almost 25 years without preventing law-abiding citizens from legally acquiring firearms.

Since Newtown, California has stepped up efforts to seize firearms from people who no longer can legally own them because of mental health issues or felony convictions.

Despite the welcome momentum in state capitals, it appears that Congress will cave in to the gun lobby. Again.

On reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already surrendered, declaring that there isn't enough support to bother bringing it to a vote. Neither is a ban on high-capacity magazines likely to clear the Senate floor.

When senators return to Washington this week, Reid is expected to pursue votes on universal background checks and a law making gun trafficking a federal crime. Both deserve to pass on their merits, but some GOP senators are threatening a filibuster to stop the Senate from even debating them.


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