Is America Giving Up on Stopping Gun Violence?
In his remarks on gun violence in Colorado, the President began by pointing out that, despite the horror of mass shootings like those in Aurora, Columbine, and Newtown, more Americans die from handgun homicides than from massacres with automatic weapons.
"It’s now been just over 100 days since the murder of 20 innocent children and six brave educators in Newtown, Connecticut shocked this country into doing something to protect our kids," Obama said in his prepared remarks in Colorado.
"But," he added, "consider this: over those 100 days or so, more than 100 times as many Americans have fallen victim to gun violence. More than 2,000 of our fellow citizens, struck down, often just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And every day we wait to do something about it, even more are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun."
Since Senator Diane Feinstein's effort to renew the Clinton-era assault weapons ban now appears to be dead, the President is refocusing on background checks.
Obama is right that handguns take more lives than assault weapons. But, with the failure to renew the ban, there is still a sad sense that momentum has been lost. The NRA has ramped up the rhetoric about the government coming to take your guns, and the moment after Newtown--when a broad cross-section of the country seemed ready to do something meaningful to stop these hideous massacres-- has faded.
Still, Obama is pressing forward with a rejiggered response. And he takes solace from state efforts in Colorado. "Colorado has already chosen to do something," the President said.
Despite being "a state that treasures its Second Amendment rights – a state of proud hunters and sportsmen, with a strong tradition of gun ownership," the people of Colorado decided to pass strict background check laws.
Background checks--which the NRA once supported--are a bugaboo for gun advocates today.
But surely here, at least, there is a fight to be made in Washington.
There is overwhelming support for background checks in the public at large.
An avid deer hunter here in Wisconsin points out: "Any felon can buy a gun at a gun show, but not at Gander Mountain. And Gander Mountain's sales are through the roof." So even card-carrying NRA members are accustomed to undergoing background checks if they frequent garden-variety gun stores.
Ever since the Clinton-era ban lapsed, assault-style weapons have become a kind of fad among many hunters, my friend, who spends a lot of time with NRA folks, also points out.
"They don't need assault-style weapons to hunt," he tells me. "It's a matter of liking it."
The real problem is not that hunters and sportsmen need to have automatic weapons (despite their recent popularity), or even that they are all that useful or accurate. The real problem is the NRA-fueled culture of paranoia--any proposed ban on weapons is a government plot to destroy your Second Amendment rights.
The assault-weapons ban appears to be lost.
Perhaps there is a chance for a ban on high-capacity magazines. The practical effect of forcing a shooter to stop and reload is obvious.
In Newtown, 154 bullets were fired in less than five minutes, killing 20 children and six teachers
At a news conference in Connecticut parents and other family members of Newtown victims urged Connecticut legislators to pass a ban on high-capacity magazines, adding that in the time it took the Newtown gunman to reload, 11 children escaped.
Governor Daniel Malloy of Connecticut has endorsed the ban on magazines that hold more than ten clips--despite NRA propaganda warning that such a ban would amount to government seizure of property and a gross violation of gun owners Constitutional rights.
As Joe Biden points out, the actual burden to gun owners is "de minimus" -- they can pay the same amount of money for the same number of bullets--they just have to pause to reload.
Is America ready for that?
Despite the overheated rhetoric, after a tragedy like Newtown, we have to hope that at least some minimal common sense can prevail.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Who Has Standing on Gay Marriage?".
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter
- Give a Gift
- About Us
- Civil Liberties
CURRENT ISSUE: December 2013 / January 2014
Rick Bass | Why I’m left with no choice but to put my body on the line.
When Government Was Neighborly
Wendell Berry | Saluting a New Deal program that helped Kentucky farmers.
The Bravest Woman I Know
Kathy Kelly | How an eighty-two-year-old librarian braved Baghdad.
How to Build a New World
Naomi Klein | Why I was wrong in The Shock Doctrine—and what we must do now.