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The president has frequently repeated the National Rifle Association talking point that more extensive background checks on gun sales would not have prevented the recent rash of mass murders. Maybe so. It’s hard to accurately see what lurks in a murderer’s mind.

The NRA, and therefore Donald Trump, are skeptical about “red flag” laws, arguing that such laws are based on supposition and hearsay, and could result in the government wrongfully confiscating someone’s property. Probably true.

Both Trump and the NRA are fond of repeating the old talking point that guns don’t kill people, only people do. There is a deadly difference, however, between the lethality of a claw hammer and a firearm. Likewise between a conventional hunting rifle or revolver, and a machine deliberately manufactured for mass murder.

That’s what a high-capacity clip makes the likes of ARs and AKs, now readily available in gun stores and gun shows. Limiting the clip capacity of firearms to a maximum of 10 rounds would certainly limit their capacity to kill. That is the reform that would unquestionably “do something” to reduce loss of innocent human lives.

Shotguns have had limited clip capacity for decades, and the courts have never found that limitation a violation of the Second Amendment. I’m betting they also wouldn’t find anything constitutionally wrong with limiting the killer clips for rifles. Methinks our wise and learned founders who drafted the Second Amendment wouldn’t either.

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I think the best explanation for the die-hard defense of the high-capacity gun clips is plain old campaign cash. It takes a lot more dollars to fill a 30-shot clip and “burp it off” than to learn to accurately and carefully target each bullet from a conventional big-game rifle. Those thus skilled are far more of a safeguard against a tyrannical government than camo-clad trigger-pullers with big clips will ever be.

The adrenaline high that trigger-mania gives the ammo addicts is what provides the dollars that supports the gun industry, and the political organization which lives off it, and pays for politicians.

The great motivation of members of Congress is to get re-elected. They rarely take strong stands that could threaten reelection or offend contributors. Expecting many of them to defy the gun lobby is to hope for what has never happened.

Now clips are being manufactured that hold a hundred rounds. Unlimited clips are uniquely useful for the limited purpose of slaughtering human beings. Can there be no such thing as a reasonable limit? Can we reasonably assume a mass atrocity won’t happen in Montana?

"Profiles in Courage" by John F. Kennedy is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about great acts of courage by a few largely forgotten members of Congress who risked their political careers to fight for what they believed was right. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte could perhaps qualify for an updated version of that great book. All it would require is the guts to stand up to the guns.

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Bob Brown, of Whitefish, is a former Montana secretary of state and state Senate president. He is both a gun owner and a hunter.

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