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Editorial, 6/15: A chance for compromise and real leadership

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At this sad point in our political discourse, there is almost certainly no more courageous stand than trying to strike a compromise with lawmakers from the opposing party.

And there is nothing more necessary to restore our nation to greatness.

In that vein, it's time for lawmakers of all ideologies to come to come together to do something about gun safety or gun control or whatever partisan label one wishes to apply.

It's certainly the last thing Rep. Don Bacon meant, but maybe the Omaha congressman, unwittingly, offered one reasonable idea.

“I oppose raising the age of purchase because this country trusts young adults at the age of 18 to vote and to serve in the military protecting our country,” Bacon said in a press release, employing a common argument to explain his vote against raising the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle. “So why aren’t they considered mature enough to purchase a gun?.”

Well, if an 18-year-old wants to get his or her hands on a semi-automatic weapon, let them enlist in the military. Not every 18-year-old would be judged fit to serve. Perhaps someone judged unfit for military service ought not have a semi-automatic weapon until they are 21.

An 18-year-old qualified to serve in the military will be trained in the proper use of such a weapon, and, indeed, as Bacon said, could be trusted.

A trained 18-year-old can drive a tank, but that same 18-year-old can't rent a 2021 Ford Escape at the airport. An 18-year-old can be stationed overseas, sleeping in hostile territory. That same 18-year-old can't rent a motel room in most states. If we trust 18-year-olds with weapons, why don’t we trust them with beer and cigarettes? Maybe it's because they still have some growing up to do.

There are still plenty of guns an 18-year-old could buy. But tying ownership of a semi-automatic weapon to military service for people ages 18 to 21 seems like a very reasonable compromise.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators (neither Ben Sasse nor Deb Fischer listed among them) announced an agreement Sunday that would encourage states to adopt "red flag" laws that allow interested parties to petition a court to removed guns from a person deemed to present a danger to themselves or others. It would also enhance background checks for gun buyers under 21. 

More ambitious firearms legislation passed in the Democratically-controlled House faced certain defeat, so a Senate compromise means that if lawmakers are serious, at least something will happen.

But there is no crisis in this nation that can't be spun to help one party and hurt the other. Until we get to a place where lawmakers are working for the good of all, not just their donors and the support of their partisan kingmakers, there will be no compromise. And people will keep dying.

To be clear, both parties seem keen to avoid what they perceive as weakness in giving up something to get something.

Right now, someone needs to lead without regard for party or even popularity. Passing something -- anything -- would make our communities safer. And it would be an even bigger win for a nation in need of finding some common ground.


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