Gun-control plans can only scratch the surface

Minnesota lawmakers are moving forward with gun-control proposals, with varying degrees of emphasis on background checks. A main division seems to be whether to try to require a check for every purchase or whether to improve the existing system, something proponents tout as more realistic.

A bipartisan bill in the House would require that mental health commitment information be sent to the national database of people who cannot own a gun. And this information would have to be sent in faster. The bill also would prohibit more people from owning guns, empower county attorneys to crack down on illegal gun owners, and increase penalties for those who buy guns for others who are not allowed to own them. The bill would not require a background check on every gun purchase, something opponents of the bill say is its major flaw.

We’re not sure any of this is going to make a fundamental difference in what is the major concern of society:?deadly shooting rampages in which school children, office workers or others are targeted by maniacs. Maniacs don’t exactly sit down and read the state’s gun laws before they head off to wreak havoc. It’s true that background checks may stop them from purchasing weapons. That’s good. But guns can be borrowed and stolen quite easily, usually from someone close to the shooter.

Lawmakers are under pressure to “do something” about access to guns in society. We can understand. Their incentive is to tell constituents that they have taken action to stop gun violence. And some may believe they are actually doing some good. But the law cannot reach inside an individual and make him or her forego the extraordinary urge to slaughter. Of the billions of people on Earth, some are homicidal. Stopping them has come to mean two things: Prison or a grave.