The Florida House's self-defeating restoration of plans for a prescription drug database to help fight our state's lethal abuse epidemic caught quite a buzz last week. But Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz began her week at a Miami rally, where she advocated for a different database, meant to fight a different yet equally deadly problem: gun violence.
A mentally deranged man wielding a semi-automatic pistol with an extended clip shot Wasserman Schultz's close friend, U.S. Rep. Gabriel Giffords, in the head during the Tucson tragedy back in January.
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Months after Al Gore's defeat in 2000, Terry McAuliffe, then the Democratic Party chief, urged Democrats to steer clear of gun control, warning of the 'devastating impact on elections' wrought by the gun lobby's monied campaign attacks. Far too many Democratic politicians have since followed that cynical doctrine. The gun lobby's power has only grown while 30,000 Americans die each year by gun violence.
So it is heartening to hear an unwavering call for stronger controls from Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the incoming chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. At a rally Monday for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Ms. Wasserman Schultz spoke out for legislation to close the loophole -- she called it 'outrageous' -- that allows gun-show customers, whether felons, terrorists or the deranged, to avoid background checks.
The Florida congresswoman was not officially speaking for the party, but she hardly trimmed her sails in anticipation of her national role. She called as well for improving the information available to law enforcement about people with histories of mental illness.
Four years after a mentally troubled gunman massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech, and months after the Tucson rampage, the federal database created to track risky gun buyers is waiting for full cooperation from state officials. Congress should bolster and adequately fund this needed resource. And it should ban sports outlets from selling the banana-magazines of ammunition used in Tucson that were designed for soldiers, not hunters.
The Tucson shootings finally forced President Obama to break his silence and call for 'comprehensive and consistent' background checks on buyers. Ms. Wasserman Schultz has shown real leadership in rejecting the McAuliffe doctrine. Mr. Obama needs to join her.
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