Gun control and terrorism

After the mass shooting in Orlando last week, it seems that even more Americans favor some restrictions on who can buy a gun, or at least purchase an assault weapon.

The most important holdouts, unfortunately, are the ones who matter: Republicans and a few Democrats in the Senate, which recently defeated the latest gun-control proposals.

Yes, I know, it happens after every mass shooting. Our leaders, most people and some lawmakers are shocked at the carnage and say we have to do something to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of terrorists and disturbed individuals. More-extensive background checks or restrictions on buying assault-rifles are proposed, but nothing gets done.

Until the next mass murder. And then we talk about the issue again, with the same result.

What is it about the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,’’ that makes some people believe that, after 230 years, it should not be modernized? I don’t understand it, and I am probably against government interference in our lives as much as anybody.

I disagree with Donald Trump, the likely GOP presidential nominee, as just about every issue. But I like it when he says, as he often does, that we have to be smart. And wouldn’t it be smart to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists? He thinks so.

Even the National Rifle Association thinks so. The NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, said the group’s “position is that terrorists should not be able to buy firearms, legally or illegally.”

So you have to wonder why Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein’s proposal to prevent people on the federal terrorism watch list and other terrorist databases from buying firearms failed to get the Senate votes needed to proceed.

The Republican alternative, which would require the authorities within three days to prove their case barring a gun purchase, also was defeated. The oddity here is that GOP lawmakers fear the watch lists might contain too many people who shouldn’t be on it,

while most of those same legislators support the surveillance programs that could put the wrong citizens on those lists.

What’s so bad about having to register certain kinds of weapons, going through background checks or setting up a red flag if on a watch list? Why does anybody need or want an assault rifle? Is there some other way to cut down on the mass shootings that are occurring more and more often?

According to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and of the Joint Special Operations Command, “in 2014, 33,599 Americans died from a gunshot wounds. From 2001 to 2010, 119,246 Americans were murdered with guns, 18 times all American combat deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is a national crisis.”

He says of his group, the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, “We are alarmed that a known or suspected terrorist can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer where background checks are conducted, pass that background check, legally purchase a firearm and walk out the door.”

Most people also are alarmed and want government action. Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that 79 percent of Americans favor laws to prevent people with mental illness from buying guns, 70 percent want a federal database to track all gun sales, and 57 percent support a ban on assault weapons.

But, since 1990, the NRA and affiliated groups have contributed $37.3 million to presidential and congressional candidates, so it’s likely that the government will continue to do little to ``infringe on the right to bear arms.’’

Of course, as much as we do want to be more secure and prevent the mass murder of innocent people, we do have to be careful about granting too much power to a government that since 9/11 has been spying on its citizens. We should not easily give up any more privacy and freedom.

Since the Orlando massacre, both Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, perhaps realizing that more gun control is unlikely, have called for more and better government surveillance of terror suspects on all levels. And we already know how that power can be abused.

With such reasons to distrust the government, the roadblocks facing gun-control measures are almost understandable.