Obama and Gun Sanity

Obama and Gun Sanity

The prez comes out with 23 executive orders and 13 proposals for Congress


© Bryan Zepp Jamieson

January 16th 2013



To hear the far right tell it, North Korea, led by the reanimated corpse of Adolf Hitler, has invaded America and is making every school child turn in any relatives who have guns. Discussion areas throughout the web erupted with an amazing variety of paranoid conspiracy theories, ranging from claims the shootings at Sandy Hook were faked by the administration as an excuse to burn the Constitution (yes, really) to claims that doctors would be forced to turn in any patients who owned guns.

The reality is considerably closer to actual sanity. The 23 executive orders are relatively mild, and most amount to nothing more than window dressing. Even the one about doctors falls far short of Matt Drudge’s paranoid babble: it consists merely of sending a letter to doctors letting them know that it is not illegal to report patients who the doctors feel present a real risk of gun violence. To that end, he feels doctors should feel free to ask about weapons in the home, something the GOP has tried to outlaw.

Most just emphasize existing laws. Agencies are urged not to be lax in sharing information, and removing red tape from sharing information about dangerous individuals. Other items address notifying private dealers on how to make proper background checks (already required but often inadequately followed through on) or training police on how to deal with mass shootings in their areas. Unfortunately, most police already feel a need for such training and have implemented, so the amount allocated—fourteen million dollars—is relatively small. He wants to set up programs so schools, churches, any place where people gather can have contingency plans in place to get people to safety the next time a loony with a bunch of guns shows up. A couple of his orders might even have enthusiastic NRA support if the NRA was even remotely sane these days, a questionable assumption. Obama wants to promote campaigns to teach gun safety and gun handling, and wants to have firm standards for gun locks and gun safes. These are things the NRA has agitated for in the past.

He wants to release an already-existing report on the nature of lost or stolen guns to law enforcement. Oh, the horror.

Oh, and he resolves to renominate a head for BATF. The House and Senate have been sitting on that one for six years now.

All very mild, and in a sane society, unremarkable proposals. So of course, the gun nuts lost their collective minds, and are talking about armed revolution, impeachment, even civil war. Which reminds me: Obama wants some standards about mental health and gun ownership. That should make this crowd even more desperately unhappy, since a lot of them couldn’t pass a mental health test.

The right were particularly aghast that Obama was flanked by children for his presser today. How dare he involve children in a event that stemmed from the massacre of children? The NRA, in a complete abandonment of decency, sneered that it was hypocritical of Obama to have armed guards for his children. Was Obama afraid some vicious lunatic from the far right might shoot them just to make a political statement?

Well, if I was Obama, seeing how these clowns are behaving, I sure would be concerned for their safety. The NRA, cowards and bullies that they are, see that as weakness. What kind of father wants to protect his children from vicious thugs?

The 13 proposals to be sent to Congress have more meat on them. For instance, background checks would be required on all gun transfers, save only for among family members. Similarly, the definition of “relic” or “curio” weapons would be tightened up, since these days, some AK-47s qualify. He would restore the 1994 ban on semi-automatic weapons, reworded so manufacturers couldn’t simply make nearly-identical clone weapons that technically weren’t covered. He would reduce the number of rounds in a clip to 10. There’s no legitimate civilian need for larger rounds. Armor-piercing bullets would be illegal. The rest is mostly funding for the fall-out from gun violence, ranging from police training (and funding for more police in cash-strapped states) to post-traumatic counseling for victims. He would expand the National Violent Death Reporting System to all 50 states from the present 18.

The only proposal that strikes me as silly is a request for ten million to study the effect of video games and movies on gun violence. America has a severe mental problem in how it sees guns, but it isn’t video games or movies that caused that; it’s 50 years of fear mongering from gun manufacturers who have left Americans convinced they are in constant danger and can deal with their surroundings only if heavily armed. Obama would be better off following Michael Moore’s advice and asking why Canadians aren’t shivering with fear in their bunkers as a result of the six o’clock news.

Today’s proposals, mild as they are, won’t solve gun violence. Indeed, there’s no answer that will provide fast relief to the fact that a significant percentage of America’s 300 million guns are in the hands of lunatics and thugs. But it’s a beginning.

Now it’s on Congress to move forward on this. The GOP, saddled with vile nuts who voted repeatedly against aid for areas hit by Hurricane Sandy, are creatures of the far right, but if Obama can convince 50 of the best Republicans that this is what America needs, he can get it passed.


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