President Barack Obama is trying an end run around the NRA — rallying groups as varied as churches, medical organizations, retailers and the Rotary Club to build support for new gun regulations…
During one session with a dozen religious leaders on Wednesday, Biden made a specific request to those gathered to preach to their congregations about the importance of enacting stronger gun control laws, said the Rev. Michael McBride, a participant in the meeting and a community organizer for the PICO Network, an alliance of faith-based organizations…
“He knows that it’s going to be a tough road to come up with the legislative package that would make everyone feel happy,” McBride said. “So he was appealing to our strength and our unique call as moral and faith leaders to help emphasize in our own faith traditions the importance of not only legislation but changing the culture of violence in our country.”
Improvements in background checks would be the easiest to pass in Congress if the proposed changes don’t get gummed up with more controversial elements like the much maligned assault weapons ban. Background checks have been identified by gun control advocates as the best way to curb gun violence. Forty percent of gun sales take place at private gun shows where no background checks are required, and 19 states don’t send names to the national database that identifies people who are legally prohibited from owning guns–drug abusers, convicted felons, people with restraining orders on them, etc.
Even so, lawmakers are also focusing on assault weapons, ammunition, video games, and mental health issues. Democrats have yet to tip their hand on how they will proceed: Either to insist on a big package that could be shot down by opponents or offer individual slices of the package, which may doom some ideas but bolster others. Democratic lawmakers and aides have said they want to make sure their response to the Newton, Conn., massacre and other gun crimes is wide-reaching, encompassing mental health and violent imagery in the media as well as gun restrictions. But they also want to be pragmatic.
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., sits on a House Democratic task force on guns. He told National Journal that he would prefer to deal with background checks first, since it has the broadest support, and tackle other issues after that. “There’s evidence that in certain states where they tightend their background checks, they dramatically reduced the gun crimes. That would be the fastest way to make an impact,” he said.
Vice-President Joe Biden’s gun panel is set to report to President Barack Obama next Tuesday. The common view is that any legislation that is at all controversial would have a difficult time getting passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Now, Biden has raised the possibility of getting gun control measures by executive order.
My advice for the president as someone who reads polls: go for it, if it’s what you want to do. There is much discussion that acting by executive order would be seen as a “totalitarian” action and provoke a backlash. Nonsense, so long as the order is supporting a measure the public favors…
Past history suggests that the president can’t wait around until he gets a Congress that is willing to cooperate. After the Columbine shooting in 1999, Americans’ support for stricter gun laws jumped by 5-10pt. After a year or two, the spike had abated and appetite for stricter gun laws continued its slow decline to the minority position it held just before Newtown.
Today, the most vociferous defenders of gun rights tend to be white, rural males who oppose any regulation. But theirs was once the ardently held position of radical African Americans. Notably, in the 1960s, Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Huey Newton toted guns wherever they went to make a point: Blacks needed guns to protect themselves in a country that wasn’t quite ready to enforce civil rights.
In one remarkable incident in May 1967, as recounted in The Atlantic by UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, 24 men and six women, all armed, ascended the California capitol steps, read a proclamation about gun rights and proceeded inside — with their guns, which was legal at the time.
Needless to say, conservatives, including then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, were suddenly very, very interested in gun control. That afternoon, Reagan told reporters there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”
The degree of one’s allegiance to principle apparently depends mainly on who is holding the gun.
The idea that the government can regulate or ban its way into a world where there are no tragedies, no premature deaths, is quite simply ridiculous. But that is precisely the assumption behind phrases like “if only one life is saved, it’s worth it.”
Which brings us to the dangerous part. Pay attention to what Biden is saying. The important thing is for government to act, not for the government to act wisely.
And that’s the real problem with this kind of rhetoric. Not only does it establish a ridiculously low standard for what justifies government action — indeed, action itself becomes its own justification — but it also sets the expectation that the government is there to prevent bad things from happening.
Add to this one consequence of President Obama’s intransigence on a debt solution: His other priorities are in limbo. Mr. Biden will announce his recommendations next week, just as Congress prepares to tackle the debt ceiling. At what point will Democrats have the spare bandwidth to address gun control? Also open to question is whether the White House intends to spend its political capital on that perilous subject, rather than on presidential priorities like immigration reform.
The White House is playing its usual fuzzy double-game. Does it intend to stick to mental-health recommendations and slough off on Congress any gun decisions? Or does it intend to embrace gun control in its liberal remake of the country? Was the leak that the Biden task force is debating big gun restrictions a signal of a fight to come? Or was it a deliberate head fake—to make smaller proposals look more reasonable? No one has a clue.
Whatever the White House intends, it is already in a tough position. The task-force leak, combined with Mr. Biden’s tantalizing suggestion of a gun-related executive order, has seriously raised expectations. Anything less than the dismantling of the Second Amendment will earn Mr. Obama a lambasting from his left.
Via the Examiner.
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