As is often true with politics and public policy, the following sentence needs to be heard most by the people who are least inclined to believe it: President Obama is not coming after our guns.
The president called for four legislative measures and announced 23 executive orders Wednesday regarding gun violence, and if you are an American with no criminal history or mental illness that might make you a danger to others, exactly none of the 27 would stop you from owning a gun.
The proposals comprise the broadest attempt to control gun violence in decades, addressing not only the mass shootings that horrify us, but the daily shootings that claim far more Americans. In just 33 days since Newtown, more than 900 people have been killed by guns in the U.S.
Obama, as expected, called for a ban on selling military style guns that can pump out dozens of bullets a minute, along with any ammunition magazine that contains more than 10 bullets. Those guns and those magazines were involved in shootings last year in Newtown and Aurora, among others. The president also urged Congress to require criminal background checks on all gun sales, including private sales and those made over the Internet, and to approve new gun trafficking laws that would limit the spread of weapons across the country.
Meanwhile, the executive orders will help federal agencies, states and local law enforcement obtain and share information for background checks. They require law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations, and they give police additional reporting and training tools to fight and prosecute gun crimes.
Obama also is using executive orders to offer schools opportunities to hire more resource officers and counselors, and to address mental health issues that include a clarification of services that Medicaid and insurance must cover.
Reasonable measures all, but the 23 executive orders already have some gun advocates hyperventilating. Not because of their substance, but because their existence affirms the right-wing fantasy that Dictator Obama is abusing the power of his office to steal your Second Amendment rights.
One Republican, Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, threatened impeachment of Obama for the proposals. Another, Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, had this response to the president’s speech: “The Second Amendment is non-negotiable. The right to bear arms is a right, despite President Obama’s disdain for the Second Amendment and the Constitution’s limits on his power.”
Never mind that Obama expressed a firm belief in the Second Amendment again Wednesday. Never mind that even if Obama weren’t to be believed, Congress would never begin to contemplate legislation that went after the rifle in your closet or pistol in your nightstand. The bluster from the right is calculated ignorance, designed to disguise this reality:
What the president proposed Wednesday are reasonable measures most Americans support. They are ideas that address issues both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, have raised regarding gun violence. They are, more than anything, an attempt not to take away Americans’ rights, but to make those rights more difficult to abuse.
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