Obama gets push for gun safety off to strong start
The Kansas City Star
The much-needed push for gun safety in America is on.
President Barack Obama set the wheels in motion Wednesday by announcing 23 executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence. He asked Congress to pass substantial laws, including bans on assault weapons and magazines of more than 10 rounds. He also called for background checks on all firearms purchases, including private sales and those made at gun shows.
Those steps alone would make the United States a safer and saner nation. There’s no question that high density magazines and military-style assault weapons have increased the number of casualties at mass shootings. Obama and allies in Congress should push for a very strict assault weapons ban. And Congress should finish the job of getting rid of armor-piercing bullets, which serve only to endanger police officers.
Better tracking of who is buying and selling firearms would give police valuable tools to prevent the shootings that ravage Kansas City and other urban areas. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center showed 85 percent support for universal criminal background checks of gun buyers. Only irrational obeisance to the gun lobby would prevent Congress from passing such a sensible law.
Other notable elements of the president’s plan:
He will direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence and effective measures to prevent it. He called on Congress to fund research on what effects violent video games and films have on real-life shootings. As measures go, those are no-brainers. America is too smart a nation to deliberately operate in the dark when it comes to one of its most pressing problems.
Obama nominated Todd Jones, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, to be permanent director. Congress has stalled on this post for six years. It’s time to fill the position.
He pledged to make money available to schools wishing to institute safety measures and for better police protection in communities.
He proposed measures to make mental health treatment more accessible but correctly did not put the onus of gun violence on mentally ill Americans. They are not the cause or the answer to the nation’s gun problem.
Obama could have gone further. He could have suggested, for instance, a limit on the number of firearms that an individual or household could possess.
But it should surprise no one that the president crafted his plan with a sensitivity to the politics of gun ownership.
For many years, the nation has watched its politicians literally buy into the NRA’s false claim that any attempt at gun safety is an attack on individual freedoms.
It is nothing of the sort. Referencing December’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Obama framed the argument well:
“I believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown.”
The hard work of gun safety will be done in Congress and state legislatures. Now is the time for Americans to tell politicians they want sensible restrictions and protections. The politicians should hear from doctors, teachers, shop owners, faith leaders, parents and everyone else, letting them know we are tired of coddling the gun industry at the expense of common sense and safety.