When it comes to guns and gun control, credible information isn't easy to find. Here are a few facts that might surprise you. Gun ownership, according to some surveys, is lower now than at any time in the past 40 years. Violent gun-related deaths have been declining for the past 20 years. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans in favor of stricter gun control has dropped by almost half.
So in light of the terrible killings in Aurora, Colo., what do we make of all that? Are Americans less supportive of gun restrictions because fewer households own firearms or because gun control seems less vital as crime has plunged? No reasonable person on the right or left will dispute that Americans have some right to keep and bear arms. But that right is not--and will likely never be--absolute. At both the federal and state level, there are legal restrictions on all sorts of firearms and their accessories that endure for reasons of public safety and common sense. Even many gun owners support stricter background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines. And gun owners know better than anyone else that an AR-15 has little or no sporting purpose.
What comes through very clearly in Joe Klein's insightful cover story is how and why politicians have abdicated responsibility on even commonsense measures--like the now lapsed assault-weapons ban that Bill Clinton signed in 1994--that a majority of Americans would support. As Joe's story notes, neither of the candidates for the presidency, both of whom supported that ban in the past, is talking about it now.
Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR