As the United States struggles with the scourge of gun violence, Kansas' two U.S. senators find themselves in a unique position.
Sen. Pat Roberts is retiring, and Sen. Jerry Moran isn't up for re-election. Both remain popular with voters in the state. That means that both men are insulated from the political gale force winds that buffet leaders who attempt to examine the country's gun laws. We would ask both senators to step up and truly lead a discussion about what kind of country we want to be, and what kind of role various pieces of legislation could play in reducing gun deaths.
There's no shortage of conversations to lead. Red flag laws, which would allow authorities more flexibility to deny weapons to those who might threaten deadly violence, are one opportunity. Thorough background checks, and possibly closing loopholes that allow gun sales without them, are another.
There are also the questions raised of ever-larger magazines and bump stocks. When most gun owners speak either of hunting or personal safety, what role do such military-grade accessories play? What kinds of trade-offs are we comfortable making?
We’re not saying that Sens. Roberts and Moran should have any foregone conclusions. We’re not saying that they should decide to increase background checks or limit them. We’re not saying they should call to limit magazine sizes or allow trends to continue.
We’re saying they should lead the conversation.
Polling suggests that many in the country are willing to put some limits in these areas. But we also know that for gun enthusiasts, any sort of limits smack of unwarranted government interference in a fundamental freedom. Without the ability to debate and discuss these issues openly, we will be stuck in an ever-more-frustrating stalemate.
In the past, resolving thorny questions of national policy has often fallen to elder statesmen, to those with unimpeachable morals and reputation. Kansas has been fortunate in that both of our senators are responsible, pragmatic and deeply respected. It’s difficult to imagine two better figures — from the very heartland of the country, no less — to lead a national conversation.
The alternative to this scenario? If no one steps forward, if the discussions are not held, we will find ourselves repeating the same tragic and frustrating cycle. No one wants mass shootings or gun violence to occur. Many ideas are in the air. But we have to take a leap to have a good-faith exchange of ideas first.
Sens. Roberts and Moran? The floor is yours.