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Gun violence target: the bullets

The mantra “It’s the economy, stupid,” propelled Bill Clinton’s candidacy during the presidential campaign in 1992. His decision to highlight the nation’s then-struggling economy (and promise to fix it) helped him win the White House.

One theme in this year’s midterm elections is the renewed call for more gun control laws, especially from students worried about school shootings. I’m left wondering when someone will come up with the rallying cry “It’s the bullets, stupid.” After all, guns don’t work without bullets.

After watching trends across the country, here’s my prediction: The next big gun safety push will take aim at regulating the bullets that make guns so deadly.

Currently, there are few controls on ammunition sales in this country. There is a federal law that says those who are not legally allowed to buy or have a gun — a convicted felon, for example — are also not allowed to buy bullets, but there is no real system in place to enforce that.

In Pennsylvania, bullets are offered like snack food in vending machines. At pharmacies in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Texas, customers have been able to buy guns and ammunition along with their prescription medications. And, of course, residents in almost every state can buy ammo via the internet, although sometimes government-issued identification and/or a valid gun license is required. It is incredibly hassle-free to buy high-capacity magazines and bulk bullets online. A 100-round magazine for an AR-15, a favorite of several recent mass shooters, can be had for as low as 125 bucks.

Case in point: James Holmes, the young man who walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and fatally shot 12 people and wounded 70 others, had stockpiled more than 6,000 bullets from various online sites. There was no way for authorities to track all his purchases. That was in 2012, and now, years later, little has changed to regulate online sales of ammunition.

Some states have moved to restrict sales of large-capacity magazines and feeding devices that allow for quick release of multiple bullets. But California has gone much further. It has become the model for the anti-bullet movement.

The Golden State requires that all ammunition bought online be shipped to a licensed vendor or law enforcement agency that will dole it out and keep track of who bought what and when. This also allows time for a background check on the buyer. In addition, gun control advocates in California have campaigned to raise taxes on ammo sales, and they’d like to have each and every bullet stamped with traceable markings to help law enforcement solve crimes.

Los Angeles and Sacramento passed laws years ago requiring all ammunition sellers to keep detailed logs of each transaction. Those logs have been incredibly helpful for detectives who frequently scour the list looking for unauthorized purchases. Authorities in those two cities say that by reviewing the logs, they’ve been able to arrest hundreds of felons, including gang members, drug dealers, registered sex offenders and other criminals and confiscate their guns. Beginning next year, all California ammo sellers will have to keep such logs.

So, will the rest of the nation follow California’s lead on bullet control? Not if gun rights groups have a say. Those who enjoy competitive and range shooting, hunting or teaching their children about gun safety see it as just another restriction on law-abiding gun owners.

History shows that passing more restrictive gun laws does nothing to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. The bad guys don’t give a damn about laws, and guns are readily available on the street. But if we take steps to literally take the firepower away from those guns, if we make everyone who buys a bullet responsible for how it is utilized, the United States becomes a safer place.

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Visit Diane Dimond at www.dianedimond.com.

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