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THE TEXAS OBSERVER 600 West 7 Austin Tx 78701 6 The Texas Observer The gun control editorial Austin Let’s get serious. Every two years, and sometimes in off-years, The Texas Observer runs an editorial advocating gun control. We have long looked on it as one of those hopeless, Sisyphean tasks that falls to the lot of liberals in a macho-ridden society. We have biannually approached it with what we thought was a fair amount of cheer, but without any hope of success. But this year control is not only a rational and desirable measure, but gun control is also politically feasible. Gun control is a law-and-order issue Every poll on the subject shows that the overwhelming majority of the people \(over 70 percent, according to Messrs. The late J. Edgar Hoover supported it. The current director of the F.B.I. Clarence Kelly supports it. Col. Wilson Speir, head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, supports it. Prosecutors and lawmen all over the state support it. NOW, YOU understand, there is gun control and there is gun control. What the National Rifle Association, hunters, and hand-gun enthusiasts fear is the idea of having their guns and rifles confiscated. As far as we know, no one in favor of gun control has ever seriously proposed such a measure. Even the anti-hunting folk we know admit that deer and other game in many areas would soon die of starvation if controlled hunting were not permitted. While we ourselves do not hunt, we do enjoy cooking and eating venison, quail, doves, etc. And while we suspect that the world could get along very nicely without any handguns whatever, we see no particular harm in antique gun collecting, shooting clubs, target practice clubs, and the like. We even have a contributing editor who is crazy about machine guns. And we know people who think that chess is a weird pastime. BUT, but, friends, we are not now and never have been talking about whether guns per se are good or bad. We are talking about utter failure to regulate guns in any way, shape, or form, and the clear relation of that failure to this state’s crime rate. Murder, robbery, kidnaping, hijacking, and all like that there are mostly done with guns, verdad? Will gun control stop such crimes? No. Will gun control cut down on them? Yes. The evidence is simply indisputable. In every state and country with tighter gun laws than Texas has, there are fewer crimes committed with guns. This is not only true in countries like England, where people, apparently as a result of some little understood cultural quirk perhaps an advanced degree of civilization seldom shoot one another: it is also true in states like New York and California, where racial problems and cultural alienation are at least as acute as they are in Texas. Leave us look once again at the dismal firearms situation that now exists in this state. The ONLY regulation covering the purchase of guns is that the purchaser is supposed to be at least 18 and is supposed to be sober. The determination of these qualifications is usually up to a store clerk. Whether or not the purchaser has a criminal record, a mental record, has just had a furious fight with someone, or is of the clerk’s affair. Comptroller-elect Bob Bullock, who is a life member of the N.R.A. and strongly opposed to gun control, was startled to learn just how much license the law allows. But even he now admits that what is certainly the simplest and possibly one of the most effective forms of gun control is a good idea; that is putting a 24-hour waiting period on the purchase of handguns. Houston’s D.A. Carol Vance, whose law’n’order credentials are impeccable, has long advocated such a measure. Most murderers are not professional hit men nor confirmed criminals: they are irate members of your own family or your close friends. According to former U.S. Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark, 85 percent of all murders are committed within families or between friends. Someone gets drunk,’gets mad, and goes out and buys a Saturday Night Special, which, what with inflation, now costs 10 bucks. Presto, murder. If you just give people one day, 24-hours, to calm down and sober up, the murder rate will go down. It is true that someone who has decided to stick up a Jiffy Mart is not likely to be deterred by a 24-hour waiting period \(unless he had been drinking when he made snit who has decided to off his wife might be able to borrow a gun from a neighbor. But just in terms of numbers, a delay will cut the murder rate. A few years ago, the Harris County D.A.’s office came up with statistics showing that 40 percent of the county’s murders were committed on the same day the gun was purchased. The next not-in-the-least alarming step the state could take to cut its crime rate is registration of handguns. This step, too, is favored by Colonel Speir and other law enforcement personnel. We have never understood why any law-abiding citizen, N.R.A.-member or not, would object to it.