Editorial, New York Times

The next few weeks represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to harden the nation’s gun laws and reduce the threat of rapid-fire violence in America. A month after the slaughter of 20 children and seven adults in Newtown, Conn., Vice President Joseph Biden Jr.’s commission is about to present a series of recommendations for new laws, and it is vital that his panel gets it right and that Congress immediately takes action on its report.

Federal laws on guns have been kept so lax, for so long, that the Biden panel could suggest scores of ways to improve public safety. But there are a few policies that clearly have to be in any serious legislative package, the first two of which were endorsed on Monday by President Obama: requiring criminal and mental-health background checks on every gun buyer, including sales from individuals; a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; a strong statute prohibiting gun trafficking; and an end to the hobbling of the federal agency that enforces gun laws.

The need for background checks on every gun buyer has never been greater, now that the Internet has made it easy for private individuals to buy and sell guns without screening. The reason that both the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns have made universal background checks their top priority is that 40 percent of gun sales now take place privately, including most guns that are later used in crimes…

Read the full editorial at NYTimes.com