By Briana Cartwright
The United States Senate will soon vote on new gun control legislation but the gun control bill may not pass because of a divided Congress. In preparation for this event, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and first lady Michelle Obama will try to develop support for the gun package. This package includes background checks on firearm purchases, creates new penalties on “straw” purchases, and includes new funding for school security. Unfortunately, the legislation will not include an expanded ban on assault weapons or a ban on high-capacity ammunition, which President Obama proposed immediately after the Sandy Hook Massacre. That precipitous event coupled with the Aurora massacre has led to bold new Connecticut and Colorado legislation that offer landmark examples of potentially effective gun control legislation that specifically ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Simultaneously, the National Rifle Association has objected to these legislative initiatives and advocated armed citizens in all schools as a solution. Some states including Texas have even considered laws that require all citizens to own guns. Citing our Second Amendment right to bear arms, the highly financed resistance to gun control policy ignores both the nature of modern weapons and their intended use within arguments that ignore practical public safety consequences as evidenced in Connecticut, Colorado and elsewhere across America.
Many gun control advocates raise concerns because this legislation lacks these key assault weapon and high capacity magazine components. It leaves us to wonder if the legislation will actually provide any true benefit. Common sense dictates that assault weapons enable mass killing by design, not self-defense as intended by the Second Amendment. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has indicated that he will allow the vote to occur as an amendment if senators want to place that condition within the legislation. On the other hand, gun owners applaud the fact that the existing legislation does not force them to give up any existing weapons or magazines. Sales at gun shows across America set records weekly in anticipation of the new law “grandfathering” ownership of such devices.
The NRA has made their case one of basic constitutional rights and freedoms. The NRA exists to build lucrative markets for companies that sell these guns and unfortunately public safety suffers in favor of private profits. The NRA opposes even to the idea of sensible legislation, limits, and precautions such as those currently proposed in the Senate. This moderate legislation offers a watered down compromise that President Obama has been criticized for accepting. Education of the masses holds the key to the success of this gun regulation legislation passing. Our right to bear arms originated from a need for us to protect us from British soldiers who could also occupy our homes and take other liberties. Today, these purposes do not extend to assault weapons that our founding fathers could not envision. Public awareness of these facts must overcome private marketing propaganda to gain support for this and state level gun control laws. However, the public campaign for gun control has so far paled in comparison to the Second Amendment – rooted NRA case against it.
America needs gun control evidenced by the Aurora movie theater massacre, the Sikh temple massacre, and the Sandy Hook massacre—all taking place in one year. After these massacres, the NRA focused instead on mental illness and stress and argues that people kill people, not guns. That valid point only causes us to consider background checks and other controls before on people buy guns. However, the NRA even opposes practical background checks and restrictions on marketing of weapons simply because they impact profits. The NRA offers no public policy or program solutions to reduce the number of insane potential mass murderers in America. This amounts to proposing to end drunken driving accidents by ending public drunkenness with no practical way to end such behavior. The lack of realistic alternatives to the proposed legislation emphasizes America’s need for it.
With the NRA’s effective public scare tactics and President Obama’s so far ineffective support for it, this legislation might not actually pass. Sadly, President Obama has always been known as a compromiser. The legislation that President Obama presents would not have prevented the Sandy Hook shooting. Nothing may have, but this event presented a perfect opportunity to gain public consensus. Yet, these tragedies seem to galvanize the opposition to justify more gun ownership and armed civilian presence in schools and public places. The opposite result has occurred in several states as the issue polarized America.
However, President Obama supports this legislation because he campaigned for it and views some progress as superior to the status quo. He failed to produce gun control in his last term, so this represents his last chance. He may fail because Republicans in the Senate do not fear him and their constituents have the NRA working on their behalf. A public grass-roots mobilization of support may save this legislation and lead to effective public gun control policy. Such support must focus on educating the public on the true intent and impact of the Second Amendment as it applies to modern weapons. Given that interpretation, public safety will emerge as a priority as opposed to gun industry profits and common sense may prevail against fear, uncertainty and doubt underlying the current resistance to gun control legislation in our senate.
Update: This post originally referred to the Second Amendment as the Third. This has been fixed. Thanks go to commenter David Straub for the catch!