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Nonetheless, a good deal of firearm violence could no doubt be prevented. By limiting interstate gun sales, the Dodd bill would strengthen the power of states to enforce their own gun laws. In most states, stiffer controls are needed—minimizing, for example, spur-of-the-moment shootings by providing "cooling-off" periods of several days before anyone can obtain a new weapon, as well as prohibiting all gun sales to criminals and known psychotics. Yet, despite the renewed clamoring for action, it is far from certain that the Dodd bill will be enacted, largely because of the influence wielded by the National Rifle Association, whose 750,000 members lobby vigorously and effectively against most gun-control legislation.

Though some right-wingers condemn gun controls as a Communist plot to disarm Americans, a more common objection is that individual Americans have "a constitutional right to bear arms." Actually, no such absolute right exists. The Supreme Court has held consistently that the right is a collective one. State militias are quite clearly what the Founding Fathers had in mind in drafting the Second Amendment: "A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Stricter arms licensing could certainly not prevent the sort of crime perpetrated by Whitman, but it would keep guns away from at least some who might misuse them. Since Americans usually need licenses to marry, drive a motor scooter, run a shop or even own a dog, it is difficult to see why a license to keep a lethal weapon would be any abridgment of their freedom.

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