It’s almost impossible to have a reasoned conversation about gun control in this country, and when President Obama, the most polarizing political figure in this country in generations, is leading the conversation, the odds plunge from there.
That’s because the extreme factions shout so loud that no one else can be heard — and status quo typically triumphs.
On the far left we have folks who believe it’s possible to legislate away violence, that cleverly crafted laws can put firearms beyond the reach of those who would use them to cause mayhem. It’s a simplistic notion, that someone prone to violence would obey gun laws, or could not find a way to get their hands on one of more than 300 million firearms floating around this country.
On the far right we have the gun-lovers, those who believe that any attempt to push weapons farther from a citizen’s reach begins the erosion of the Second Amendment, which the framers of the Constitution penned to guarantee access to weapons they could never envision so they could be used to confront tyranny, with the government itself being the most likely threat.
Against that backdrop, Obama last week, tearful at times and flanked by people whose lives have been shattered by metal, announced he would use executive authority — in other words, bypass a Congress impotent on gun control — to better control how guns are sold and to whom.
It’s quite likely that you don’t know what measures he proposed, which are modest both in scope and their ability to effect change. Obama’s biggest bullet was simply to clarify that anyone “in the business” of selling firearms must have a federal license and conduct background checks on prospective buyers to keep them out of the hands of the underaged, criminals and the mentally ill. The intent is to stem the sales of guns over the Internet, which have been booming in a nation that is increasingly paranoid, particularly as it relates to the threat of terrorism.
Among other measures would be for the FBI to hire 230 more agents to conduct background checks, better tracking of guns that have been lost or stolen, and removing barriers to getting information on a person’s mental health as part of the background checks.
It would be left to Congress to enact bolder measures, but don’t expect that to happen. In Congress, those on the left and right quiver at the prospect of angering the National Rifle Association, one of the country’s most powerful lobbies, which promises to put in its crosshairs any politician that it deems a threat to the rights of gun ownership.
Background checks would not have stopped the overwhelming number of mass murders this country has endured that have fed the debate on gun control, and at best would only prevent a few of the 30,000 gun deaths each year in the United States.
Does that render Obama’s executive order worthless? We say no because even a few lives are plenty worth saving, especially if that can be managed without any rollback of rights assured by our Constitution.
This president has tried to start a conversation, even if it’s unlikely to continue — at least until rebooted by this nation’s next mass murder, which will be any day.
Our nation, as great as it is, pays a heavy price for being the freest in the world when it comes to violence and guns, but efforts to make guns harder to get will forever be futile because that horse long ago left the barn. The sad fact is that the bad guys will always be able to easily find guns, which is why the good guys insist that they can as well.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Pencils don’t misspell words, cars don’t drive drunk and guns don’t kill people.”