Winning over converts to either side in the gun control debate has historically been a fool’s errand. Most people’s opinions were set in stone long ago and nothing is going to change them. And so it has been stuck where it is for too long.

But there are signs the standoff may be reaching a tipping point.

In the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that took 31 lives, a bipartisan proposal was unveiled in the U.S. Senate. Introduced by Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, the bill would create a federal grant program to encourage states to adopt so-called “red flag” laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of people believed to be a danger to themselves and others. Such laws could have spurred action on several perpetrators of recent mass shootings before they acted.

President Trump has indicated he supports the idea and went even further, suggesting his support for expanded gun-purchase background check requirements. Trump’s willingness to speak up for more background checks is likely based on the knowledge that voters – including Republicans and gun owners – favor laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. And the willingness of Republican lawmakers to get behind the Graham-Blumenthal measure is the most movement we’ve seen in the national debate in years.

There are no magic laws that will totally eliminate mass shootings in the U.S. There are simply too many guns already in circulation to ensure troubled people won’t be able to obtain guns – including assault-style guns with high volume magazines like those used in many mass shootings.

But the Graham-Blumenthal proposal would be an incremental step in the right direction and a building block on which other common-sense legislation like background checks could be based. And support for the bill from Montana’s congressional delegation could help push such measures over the finish line.

To be clear: No one is proposing measures to confiscate any weapons from legal gun owners. And shooting enthusiasts and hunters have nothing to fear on that score.

The Graham-Blumenthal bill would be but a small step toward curbing mass shootings, but doing nothing can no longer be an option.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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