How effective the President will be on gun safety remains to be seen, but today he took a first step in the right direction by laying out an agenda to minimize future gun violence. He sounded like a leader. We eagerly await his action.
To many, the recommended measures are a no-brainer: universal background checks wherever guns are purchased, banning military style assault weapons and magazine clips of more than ten rounds, tougher penalties for gun trafficking and for those who lie on their applications to purchase. Others, like former Attorney General Ed Meese , claim Obama’s executive orders could be an impeachable offense. And some members of congress say the proposals are Dead on Arrival. Let’s hope not.
According to the President, there have already been 900 deaths by guns in the last month since Sandy Hook Elementary School. Polls suggest that 58 percent of Americans support an assault weapons ban, and even law-abiding gun owners favor more effective registration. Attitudes seem to have changed a bit in the wake of Newtown.
The President issued 23 executive orders on data base expansion, including tools to help mental health professionals to report potentially violent individuals, facilitate interstate sharing of information, overturn a ban on research by the Center for Disease Control to study the impact of video games and other media on violent behavior. None of these is a substitute for Congressional action. And Congress won’t act unless the American people mobilize. The question is: will the President use his bully pulpit effectively. Will he go beyond just animating his campaign network to organize and activate people in various congressional districts (from parents to clergy to gun owners) including many who didn’t vote for him, to impel Congress to action?
He says he’ll “use whatever weight the office holds to make (these measures) a reality.” The National Rifle Association, whose job it is to help manufacturers sell guns and bullets, and has for decades used gun owners as its unpaid lobbying force, is already couching this as a power grab. The President can’t let them define gun safety as an assault on liberty. The news media shouldn’t be suckered into framing the fight as between those for and against the Second Amendment. At least for today, I am encouraged. The President went big and not small. It has been more than 20 years since Congress banned assault weapons, in what was, at best, a loophole-ridden measure. More comprehensive action is needed. The case has never been more clear. If not now, when?
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