Thursday, September 14, 2006

A double-barreled blast on gun bill

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial page lets Congressman F. Jim Sensenbrenner have it with both barrels in its Friday edits for his support of and defense of a bill to keep secret the sources of guns used in crimes, an NRA-written bill if there ever was one.

A bad bill:
Sensenbrenner should disassociate himself from this soft-on-crime measure, which only makes the gun lobby and the outlaw class happy...

Sensenbrenner ... claimed opponents of the bill were trying "to take guns away from law-abiding citizens." Wrong again. The ability to trace guns to the initial buyers and to stores is hardly confiscation.

The National Rifle Association considers the bill a top priority, the Journal Sentinel's Daniel W. Reilly reports, because it would protect gun dealers from lawsuits filed by cities by restricting access to a federal database. But this Congress already has set the bar higher for suits against members of the gun industry than for civil action involving all other businesses. Does the gun lobby want total immunity from any conceivable lawsuit? No industry deserves that...

Over eight years, the NRA's political action fund contributed $12,200, in 13 installments, to Sensenbrenner's campaign fund, according to the Federal Election Commission. What's more, the NRA gives Sensenbrenner top grades. But does this mean that the congressman must do all the organization's bidding?

A graceless display:
... That would be his response to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's criticism of the gun bill Sensenbrenner helped push through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Aside from the childish nature of the response, the more worrisome thing was its tone, which was reminiscent of the divisive politics practiced so often in the past that set city against suburb...

... it's so discouraging that a politician of national prominence would lash out at his own community. Because, make no mistake about it, Milwaukee is his community. Yes, Sensenbrenner represents the collar suburbs. But his suburban constituents benefit from a strong, healthy Milwaukee just as Milwaukee benefits from strong suburban areas. We're all in this together.

With politicians and business leaders across the region working to overcome years of internecine warfare between Milwaukee and its suburbs, Sensenbrenner's comments strike us as thoughtless...

Sensenbrenner is entitled to his view, of course. But he's not entitled to wage old wars of division without being called out.

It was wrong. And somehow, we think, even the congressman knows it.

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