The debate, if any reasonable person can call it a debate, revolving around gun control in the United States, has reached a fever pitch. Conservatives are becoming ever more deranged in their response to what reasonable nations across the globe regard as common sense.
After a gun rampage in Australia, the conservative Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, banned assault weapons. The killer used an Armalite rifle and an SKS semi-automatic to take the lives of 35 people. The Prime Minister had to persuade the various states in Australia to institute a weapons ban, which was enacted using a tax on all Australians to buy back over 700,000 guns.
His path was not an easy one, since some states, notably Queensland is mostly rural and resisted the new gun laws. Howard threatened to hold a national referendum to alter the constitution to enforce the ban. Ultimately, all the states agreed and instituted the ban. In the years following, the suicide rate fell by 74%. In the 18 years before the massacre in Australia, there were 13 spree killings. Since th ban, there has not been a single one.
The rhetoric in this country has become vicious and unnecessary, targeting the Presidents children in adverts by the NRA. There has been talk of impeachment. On radio and TV, Obama has been compared to Mao Zedong, Stalin and Hitler, showing how removed from reality the debate has become.
It is a very disturbing trend in American politics, that conservatives just cannot accept the result of elections and work with their leaders to make a better country.
I pointed out yesterday that there are 310 million guns in America, owned by 60 million people, and average of five per person. I also pointed out that the entire armed forces only has 1.45 million people, and all the police forces in the country amount to some 800,000 people.
It struck me just how frightening these statistics are. Even a small uprising by a hundred thousand people could prove impossible for the armed forces to stop. Given the rhetoric coming out of the conservative right-wing, an uprising is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
If we examine some of the Presidents proposals, none of them are unreasonable, none of them take people’s guns away. All they do is give people like me, that do not own weapons and have no desire to own them, peace of mind. It is not the government that I am afraid of, or criminals, or the police, it is my neighbor, or the young thug that owns forty weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
The president has proposed making federal data available for background checks. More than 92% of Americans, including Republicans, want universal background checks. At the moment, people can walk into a gun show and walk out with a weapon without any checking whatsoever.
There are certain impediments to making data available for background checks, including health insurance, but these need to be addressed.
It is not dictatorial to make sure that a person buying a gun is not a criminal or violently insane. To the right-wing fringe it is taking away their right to own anything they want, regardless of the harm that may be caused to others.
Obama wants to make sure that people currently prohibited from owning a weapon are not allowed to possess weapons, or have weapons available to them. Again, this is not a decision that is overreaching in any way at all. It is perfectly sensible to suggest that some people should not have access to weapons, especially those that are a danger to society.
The president has also issued a directive stating that when guns are seized from people, that a background check is carried out before the weapon is returned. Again, a sensible move that will ensure that people who should not be carrying weapons are prohibited from having access to weapons.
Federally licensed gun dealers are to receive information from the ATF informing them of the method to be used to get background checks. After all, if people do not understand the system, they will be unable to use it. Again, perfectly sensible.
Another sensible step is to launch a national campaign to promote safe and responsible gun ownership. The NRA incessantly tells us that most people are responsible gun owners. That is highly unlikely, given the large numbers of people that are killed accidentally each year.
This should not be a campaign, it should be a licensing program to insist that any gun owner must undergo licensing, and pass a gun safety and usage test, just as you would have to undergo to drive a vehicle.
Obama wants to review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes. How is it possible for anyone to be a responsible gun owner if their weapons are left lying around, or stuffed into a drawer, instead of in a safe where they belong.
Obama wants guns used in criminal activities to be traced by federal authorities. Is it not common sense that law enforcement should know who owned a weapon used in a crime, and who sold it. That a system to trace guns does not exist is an indictment against the gun lobby.
Obama wants an analysis of lost and stolen guns made available generally to law enforcement. That would allow law enforcement to determine who was likely to lose guns or have them taken, and improve measures to recover those weapons and determine where they are headed.
The most incredible piece of information that the President released is that there has not been a director of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) since 2006. Again, it is the NRA and the gun lobby that has prevented one from being nominated. This position is there to ensure that gun laws are enforced, something the NRA claims that it wants done, but lobbies against it anyway.
Obama has suggested that law enforcement, first responders and school officials be given the correct training for dealing with situations such as that at Sandy Hook. There is no government overreach here, just plain common sense.
Obama also wants to increase the enforcement of current gun laws to try and mitigate some of the worst gun violence. Again, nothing out of the ordinary nothing that sensible nations would not do.
The President wants the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to study the causes of gun violence and attempt to prevent violence from happening. Some on the right claim that when this has been done before, it has become politicised.
The NRA politicizes anything to do with guns. What they really mean is that if the CDC does not reach the conclusions that they want, it must be political. The causes of gun violence are not difficult to figure out, even without studying the problem. In this country, it is the ready availability of guns and ammunition, with almost no impediment to the trade that is at fault. This is not a complex problem, and it has a simple solution, get rid of the guns and gun violence will melt away.
The President also wants to study the use of new gun safety technologies and encourage the private sector to produce creative solutions to gun violence. This again is not federal overreach, and could be profitable for the industry.
It is also essential that doctors be allowed to speak with their patients about guns in the home and the dangers attendant to that ownership. People with guns are far more likely to commit suicide with those weapons, or be killed with their own weapons, through negligence or through escalation.
Obama wants health professionals to understand that there is nothing in the law that precludes them approaching law enforcement when there is a compelling reason, such as threats of violence.
The White House wants response plans to be drawn up to help authorities deal with emergencies, something that any sensible authority would do.
The White House will require medical professionals to understand the range of mental health issues that will be covered under Medicare. There has been much debate over whether mental health should be covered to ensure that people with mental problems get the help they need. This really ought to be covered by universal health care, but that would be too much to ask of this conservative Congress.
Nothing in what the President has asked for takes people’s guns away, or promotes government overreach in any way whatsoever. His approach is sensible at every level. It does not go nearly far enough in tackling the very serious public safety issue that faces this country.
Conservatives and the gun lobby are the single biggest impediment to sensible gun reform. Every day people die because they cling to their guns. It has become more than a religion, an obsession that transcends any sane, rational approach to the problem. They must take responsibility for the death and misery that they cause.
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