IT SHOULD TAKE Vice President Joe Biden about three minutes to round up a list of ideas to present the president for proposals to reduce gun violence. Many ideas - like banning assault weapons and restricting high-capacity gun magazines - have been around for years. Biden would also do well to consult the list of federal legislation being pushed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
These include a fix to the gun-checks act that would update the database of people barred from owning handguns, and close the loophole that allows people to buy guns at gun shows without background checks. Also on that list: closing the "terror gap" that allows people on terror watch lists to buy guns. And it would untie the hands of cities, states and law enforcement from accessing gun-trace data and other restrictions of the Tiahrt Amendment.
The point is, there's plenty of work already done on this issue. And many of the gun battles - assault weapons ban, "lost and stolen" reporting requirements and others - have been fought (and lost) for years. Even in the recent climate of "enough" provoked by Newtown doesn't guarantee that reasonable controls won't be in for another long fight.
So we urge Biden to throw a few hand grenades into the mix, and consider more radical ideas that could limit the destruction of guns. Here are a few:
Smart guns: Technology for having a gun programmed to respond only to the imprint of the gun owner's palm print or other biometrics, so no one but the legal owner can fire it, is the most promising idea we've heard. This is a breathtakingly simple idea that would immediately cut the ability of a straw purchaser to buy a load of guns to sell on the street; it doesn't restrict the sale of guns to qualified buyers, and so should keep Second Amendment purists happy. It might have prevented Adam Lanza from using his mother's guns. Former Gov. Ed Rendell is a fan of this idea, and has been pushing it lately. New Jersey passed a law mandating such guns once the technology becomes available.
Liability insurance: You can't drive or operate a vehicle unless you carry liability insurance. Why shouldn't we require gun owners to be insured for potential damage caused by their gun? (Guns, incidentally, cause about the same number of deaths as vehicle crashes.) This idea is the brainchild of CeaseFirePA cofounder Nancy Gordon, who teaches at University of Pennsylvania. She says insurance companies could assess the risk and put a cost on that risk. And while many think insurance companies wouldn't go near this, we say all it would take is one to start making a lot of money on gun insurance, and we'd soon have an industry whose war chest rivals the NRA's.
Gun taxes: The feds and the state currently tax guns and ammo. We should consider increasing the taxes. That might compensate for the loss of revenue from the sales of illegal guns. Last month, Cook County in Illinois approved a new $25-per-firearm tax to help pay health-care costs from gun violence. Let's do the same.