Obama Takes a Stand on Gun Violence
The debate over gun control reform is an oddly polarizing issue in America. Most people agree that we need to do a better job of gun control. This not only comes from the left, but a lot of gun owners feel that there are just too many ways for nefarious people to get guns in this country. And when I say a lot of people agree on the issue of gun control, I mean that certain bipartisan polls have as many as 86% of people calling for more restrictions on gun sales.
I find myself one of them. As is generally the case, I'm writing this article less than a foot away from my .40 caliber Smith & Wesson. I've found it my constant companion for the last few years, and it's easy for me to understand how people can get attached to a gun. But I'm also tired of seeing schools, military bases, abortion clinics, and workplaces shot up by lunatics. President Obama seemed sympathetic to both sides of this line in his speech on Tuesday.
The president gave an impassioned speech that's sure to go down in the annals of history as one of the great speeches of all time. He was funny and charming, as he's been from the start of his presidency, and he was also transparent and emotional. He even wept a bit when he talked about Sandyhook. I don't think a sitting president has cried on TV since Nixon was caught being a scumbag and resigned. Obama also did a great job of encasing his argument for ending the sale of firearms at gun shows by addressing all of the usual arguments used by right-wing gun nuts to defend a block on further restrictions to gun laws. He talked about the position of former President and Republican demigod Ronald Reagan on the issue, reminded us all of the time that the NRA supported background checks at gun shows, and even brought up the need for offering accessible mental health to Americans. He really covered his bases.
The heavily supported firearm restrictions that were mentioned at the top of this article are simple: End the gun show loophole and hold gun purveyors responsible for selling deadly weapons to criminals and lunatics. That's it. Most Americans agree that we aren't doing enough to prevent mass shootings, and none of us likes to see dead kids on the news. So what's the hold up?
The problem is that this has been turned into a wedge issue by gun lobbyists. Unlike the long gone days of a certain level of reasonable dialogue in Congress, we find ourselves the victims of big money and lobbyists who are subservient to their employers bottom lines. They've used this money and motivation to hijack our political system, and nothing about that statement is hyperbole. Otherwise a weeping president wouldn't have to convince us all that we need to do the thing that most of us agree that we need to do.
The biggest argument against legislation that ends the gun show loophole is that it offers government restrictions that could take guns away from law abiding citizens. The fear of riders being attached to a bill that clear-cut our liberties isn't entirely baseless. After the pile of freedom-crushing addendums that were snuck under our noses on the Patriot Act, it's understandable that people are apprehensive about a massive government sanction. But the reality is that we have to do something. I've requested a full copy of the measure from the White House, but I have my doubts that I'll be sent one. I'll keep you posted on that.
For now, we'll have to go off of the President's speech. His claim is that “Anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to prosecution.” This is pretty damned sensible, and should be the minimum standard for gun ownership. Consider the nature of a gun show. You go into a small auditorium or expo center, peruse aisle after aisle of deadly weapons, and scoff at the prices at most of the booths. The last gun show that I went to was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. A lot of the sellers wanted above retail value for their wares, and I couldn't figure out why at the time (other than the fact that Obama was gonna take all of our guns away, of course). I now suspect that they rely on a desperate clientele, incapable of acquiring those same weapons through an honest transaction. A criminal in need of a gun, who is unable to get one with the weight of a background check hanging around his neck, may be more than happy to pay $1,000 for a beat up old handgun with no particular collector's value. This is a crooked way to set the market, and it needs to be dealt with.
Obama's other ideas were to modernize and strengthen background checks. The idea isn't to end gun shows themselves, but to end the practice of “Here's your cash.” and “Thanks. Here's your AR-15 and two thousand rounds. Enjoy!” There isn't enough accountability in that. Then there's the incredible notion that we should treat mental illness with the same degree of concern that we treat every other illness. Of course, given the embarrassing state of health care in America, this might not do much. But that's an article for another day.
The bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of liberals and conservatives agree that gun violence is out of control in America, and we have to try something else. We have to get over the hair splitting, and understand what compromise actually is. It's not taking an idea that may work, and then sandbagging until it's a sad, flaccid version of it's former self. It's coming to the understanding that we have Constitutional rights, but we also have a system that isn't even close to working. As for concerns over Obama's motives for this action, you won't catch a president in a more honest place than his last year in office. He isn't concerned with re-election or making friends, he's concerned only with his legacy. What better legacy than being the guy who took a big, wet bite out of the ass of gun violence in the United States? He doesn't want your law abiding guns, he wants a smaller pile of dead children at the feet of his memory.