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How far will gun-control push go?

| Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

Their jaws dropped. Several Asian journalists I was traveling with in 2004 were shocked when they saw gun racks in the rear windows of trucks in Crawford, Texas, near former President George W. Bush's ranch. They were even more astounded to see rifles for sale in an all-purpose store.

This was the very heart of Texas, a state where gun ownership is a right held dearly.

Yet few know “W” supported reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. Some critics suggest he may have done so halfheartedly by saying he'd sign it if Congress acted. Nonetheless, the former governor of one of our most gun-loving states was on board with it.

The ban expired.

Calls for gun control are predictable after every tragedy — including the latest heartbreaking one involving 20 innocent kids mowed down in Newtown, Conn.

There does seem to be a different feel this time, and I suspect something will be done.

I cannot blame otherwise pro-gun Democrats like U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for saying it's time to take a look at the laws. Casey said he would support an assault weapons ban and prohibiting high-capacity ammunition clips.

What would the limit on bullets be? A hundred? Ten?

I am not sure defining “assault weapons” is all that easy or that banning them will solve the problem of wackos engaged in mass murders. They will find other means, from fire to explosives, if they are intent on taking out a school. Remember the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building?

Moreover, hundreds of thousands of semi-automatic weapons are already out there. The next nut case may already own one, or be able to take one from a relative, steal one or buy one illegally.

So there's no way new laws stop this insanity. If they make it a bit more difficult for one guy, though, I am with Casey on this one.

Notice I keep saying “he” or “guy” because I am not aware of any gun-toting female mass killers.

I do not believe the right to bear arms means we are entitled to own an Uzi.

Shotguns and rifles for hunting, handguns for home protection — absolutely.

The right to carry for self-defense (with a license) — fine by me.

Can stiffer standards for background checks and closing the gun-show loophole help? Maybe. I am not opposed. It is still not clear whether that would stop the next nut who wants to make a name for himself in some sick way.

What's scary to me, though, is when President Obama says he “will use all the powers of this office” to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

What's that mean?

Will the conversation turn at some point to confiscation of assault weapons? Other guns? All of it cloaked in some government buy-back program?

That is the ultimate danger to our protections under the Second Amendment.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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