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Gun fever: Baffling phenomenon

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gun hysteria sweeping West Virginia's Legislature in the wake of Connecticut's grade school massacre is mystifying. We hope psychologists explain why the mass slaughter of first-graders stampeded many Americans to clamor for more gun-carrying. We can't understand. It seems irrational.

At last count, 33 bills had been introduced at the Statehouse to increase pistol-packing and assault weapon ownership in the Mountain State.

By an overwhelming vote of 94 to 4, delegates passed House Bill 2760, which revokes local gun safety laws in Charleston and other cities. We hope this lunacy dies in the state Senate -- but it may not, because death threats were made against a Senate committee chairman, Herb Snyder, warning that "if the bill doesn't pass, you won't go home from Charleston."

Even nuttier is H.B. 2504, which declares that federal gun protections are "unenforceable" in West Virginia -- and mandates state prison terms for FBI agents, U.S. attorneys, federal judges and others who try to enforce them.

Another ugly proposal is H.B. 2911, which would conceal the names of thousands of West Virginians who get permits to carry concealed weapons. If it passes, families won't be able to learn whether neighbors have loaded pistols hidden in their pockets.

Government secrecy always is a bad idea, and it's worse when such personal hazards are involved.

The last time this issue came up, a reasonable-sounding man called us to say he didn't want his pistol permit revealed, because thieves would break into his house to steal his guns. Well, if he keeps pistols to shoot thieves, which draws thieves to steal the pistols, it's "theater of the absurd."

Across America, gun madness and gun lust after the Connecticut school massacre defy explanation.  National polls show that most Americans support banning military-style assault weapons with high-capacity clips -- but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was forced to drop plans for such a ban because too few senators would support it.

In Colorado, where a psychotic with an assault gun slaughtered a dozen people and wounded 58 in a movie theater, the governor signed a new gun control law Wednesday -- and simultaneously a gunman killed the state prison chief at his home.

In Ohio, a teen who killed three fellow students in a high school cafeteria appeared in court wearing a tee-shirt labeled "killer." He sneered a grieving families and told them he now "masturbates to the memory" of the murder.

America has far worse gun slaughter than other advanced democracies. It's bewildering that elected leaders won't do anything to improve safety.


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