Beyond the tears, America needs action on gun control

President Obama can’t lead from behind after the Newtown tragedy

The horrific tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, and the immediate emotional reaction of President Barack Obama seem to have become a part of a routine when these events occur. From the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in January 2011, to the tragedy in Aurora in July 2012, to the Wisconsin Sikh Temple ,and now Sandy Hook Elementary School, it all begins with breaking news, followed by words of sympathy, a visit of consolation by the president, funeral services, and yes, talk about gun violence and how we must address the issue. Yet, nothing is really done to curb growing gun violence.

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he spoke about renewing the ban on assault weapons without preventing legitimate access to firearms, as accorded by the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, once in office, and with the strong gun lobby spearheaded by the NRA, Obama has been missing in action. The Newtown tragedy is about to force Obama’s hand. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has once again called for action by both the president and Congress.

The media coverage and the depth of this December 14 tragedy has renewed the pressure on politicians to do more than offer words of consolation and tears. This senseless tragedy is not easy to address as it involves so many factors – mental illness, access to guns, and a culture of violence that permeates the lives of Americans. As Canadians, however, we should not be smug and overly judgmental about our neighbours to the south. Sure, the statistics in the U.S. are devastating, but gun violence has no boundaries. This being said, the tipping point may have finally arrived for both President Obama and Congress to summon the courage to act and begin a process that, while it may not eliminate gun violence, will reduce the probability of more mass murders.

Speaking on Meet The Press, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said she would introduce legislation to eliminate loopholes in existing federal legislation, increase background checks, and, possibly, limit civilian access to weapons meant for the battlefield. No one expects an assault on the Second Amendment of the Constitution, but the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed for restrictions. Just as we have restrictions on our driving behavior, and in our consumption of alcohol, it is feasible that some be placed on the exercise of the right to bear arms.

President Obama must not lead from behind on this one. This could be “his Katrina moment,” akin to when former president George W. Bush failed to show leadership during this terrible natural disaster in 2005, and saw his presidency become largely irrelevant in his second term. Obama’s failure to act now could result in a premature lame-duck status.

Obama can act through executive action and supporting new legislation. He could even set up a bipartisan commission to start the wider conversation about how to prevent such tragedies in the future. This conversation needs to address issues including mental illness, the culture of violence and institutional support for people with mental illness.

Granted, Obama has much on his plate — the fiscal cliff, immigration reform and Middle East issues, including Gaza, Syria, and Iran. But the president is not just the consoler-in-chief. He is the commander-in-chief and, in his final term, he has greater flexibility. Just as he has the ultimate responsibility to keep Americans safe from an external menace, he must be as vigilant about internal threats.

Twenty children lost their lives on December 14, 2014. The new year should begin with a president who is ready to provide leadership on reducing gun violence.




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Beyond the tears, America needs action on gun control

  1. In a county that seems divided on the question of whether government should even have a role in caring for citizens that are sick or injured or impoverished, why assume it’s up to the president to take action? Where are the private sector solutions to preventing the slaughter? Why isn’t the NRA consoling the victims and paying compensation? What about the gun manufacturers and retailers? They made the mess; so where’s their money and commitment to address the damage they have done?

  2. Entire article is based on the assumption that gun control is an answer to the issue of violence, but the evidence shows this is incorrect. The CDC has done a study of gun control measures and found no correlation between gun control measures and levels of violence. over the last two decades violent crime has been seen a steep decline while gun ownership has grown. This includes the right to concealed carry which has expanded from about 25 states to 41 states in the last few decades. If the assumption was correct, then we should have seen a increase in crime.

    One of the unintended consequences of gun control is that it removes guns from people who use them for self defense. Since guns are used 750k to 2.5M times a year in self defense, them prevent an enormous number of violent crimes from being completed. When you place restrictions on gun ownership you remove the ability of people to defend themselves and increase the number of people who become victims.

    The problem with discussion on gun control is that it focuses only on when guns are used to commit violent acts and not when they are used for self defense. If you would like to see the effect of gun control look at the UK where they have outlawed all guns for practical purposes. What has occurred? A greater than 50% rise in the homicide rate and an 89% rise in the rate of violent crime. One statistic that is telling is the rate of home invasions now exceeds that of the US. The large rise in home invasions is probably because criminals now know they will not face an armed home owner. The UK makes a great example of how the loss of guns for self defense creates more victims than it saves.

    So would you like to live in a country with guns and falling violent crime and homicide rate or a country without guns and a rising violent crime and homicide rate?

    • Please stop telling these old myths.

      • Please be specific. What old myths. Then please provide a reference that shows you are not propagating myths. This type of reply does nothing to advance the debate.

    • Okay, I need to see links to this evidence you are citing, which pretty much is the opposite of various bits of evidence/statistics I have seen

    • None of which justifies the relatively easy availability of combat-purpose automatic weapons with expanded magazines. How much “self-defense” capability does the average American require?

      Nor does having the adult populace armed to the teeth do much, if anything, to protect the children in their midst. The assertion that an armed adult could intervene to interrupt an incident of wholesale slaughter completely minimizes the probability that collateral damage in such an exchange could be as devastating as the act of the perpetrator.

      • First, in the USA there is no need to justify the availability since the right to bear arms is enshrined in our constitution. The burden falls on those who want to restrict the right to show that there sufficient cause to abridge the right. In this case, research indicates that banning assault weapons does impact levels of gun violence. A 2004 critical review of research on firearms by a National Research Council panel also noted that academic studies of the assault weapon ban “did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence”. The CDC and the National Institute of Justice had similar findings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban).

        Contrary to your statement, armed citizens have protected children. In the Pearl High School Shooting on October 1, 1997, the vice principal used a gun to apprehend the shooter prevent further deaths. In the 2002 shooting at the Appalachian School of Law, two law students apprehended the shooter as well (http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/1/25/153427.shtml). Unfortunately schools are gun free zones in the US, so only shooters have gun at most school shootings, otherwise there would probably be more examples. I do not have any examples of “collateral damage .. as devastating as the act of the perpetrator” do you?

        • Statements by the right tend to be wrong and lies and usually need fact-checking. for instace, in the appalachian law school shooting the students were also police officers (the only people who should be thinking about shooting back when gunmen break out).

          It’s just like gun enthusiasts will tell you for hours how sweden has tons and tons of guns but (relatively) gun crime (though almost all homicides there are committed with guns), but that AMMUNITION for those guns is essentially banned.

          But since I invested recently in American gun manufacturers this bothers me less and less. Safely ensconed in a land where schoolchildren get gunned down about 1/10000th less frequently, all the american crazies are just makin’ me rich.

    • Your so-called “statistics” absent sources, context, etc. are completely meaningless. To address just one – what was the murder rate in the UK prior to gun control & what is it now? What was the per capita murder rate – what is it now? What methodology was used to come up w/ the “50%” rise in homicide rate? You can make statistics say pretty much anything you want – doesn’t necessarily make them facts!

      • I have provided some references in the replies above. I would like to point out though that the original article provides no statics or references. It is a purely emotional appeal not based on any facts. I have tried to add some to the discussion. Hope you do as well.

    • For my money, you can’t beat a Libertarian solution, Megan McArdle’s for example:

      “Id also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.

      Genius. Just train classes of four-year-olds to run TOWARD an adult firing a gun. It’s so simple, and the Second Amendment will be completely unaffected.

    • First, as others have pointed out, your stats have pretty much zero basis in reality. To say nothing of the ridiculous range of your self-defence usage, which pretty much indicates it’s somebody pulling numbers out of their arse and hoping nobody questions it too much.

      Second, restrictions on guns do not have to remove the ability of people to defend themselves. Less lethal options than guns exist, and are often better suited to self-defence than a gun, which is decidedly offensive in purpose.

      Contrary to popular myth, the best defence really isn’t a good offense.

      Third, by focusing on the self-defence argument you are completely ignoring the number of accidental gun deaths and injuries that strict gun restrictions would have prevented. Had the people involved in these incidents been restricted to less lethal devices, it’s quite probable that their loved ones would have been alive today.

      • I have provided references now for my stats (see above replies), please you do the same to show they have no basis. Your statement has even less credibility since you do not even put a stake in the ground to be discussed.

        Sometimes less lethal options do exist, but not in all cases and not for all people. A 110 pound women facing two six foot tall men with knives is not going to do well with less lethal options. Also, a gun does not have to be lethal to be effective. In most self defense scenarios the mere brandishing of the gun is enough to deter criminals. This is a purely defense use of a gun, so I do not understand you comments around offensive uses. You do not have to shoot to defend yourself and even if you do it can be a defensive measure.

        In 2007, there were 613 fatal firearm
        accidents in the United States, constituting
        0.5% of 123,706 fatal accidents that
        year.. This ranked 16th on the leading causes of fatalities. In 2007, there were roughly 15,698
        emergency room visits for non-fatal firearm
        accidents, constituting 0.05% of 27.7
        million emergency room visits for non-fatal
        accidents that year. This ranked 19th on the leading causes of accidents. While any death is unfortunate, this rate is so low it is hard to justify removing a constitutional right. We could save many more lives by tightening our driving license qualifications to cut down on the approximately 34K deaths from automobiles a year.

        • Actually, reading through that paper on guncite, and it strikes me that there are actually quite a few doubts that can be easily cast on it.

          First, he himself admits he oversampled in the south, and oversampled for males aged 22-44 in order specifically to find more people who may have used a gun defensively. He then says that he weighted the results to correct for this oversampling, but considering that nobody really knows how much DGU there actually is, what does he use to adjust the weighting?

          Not to mention various stats in there suggest that the respondents were lying. For instance, Gleck himself notes how it was odd how the respondents were almost *always* the one who used the gun, not anybody else in the home. He figures this is because people are protecting other people in the home, and so suggests that it undercounts the figures. He also notes how it’s odd that gun owners tend to defend against more criminals than in the average crime, and how, if we were to believe them, they prevented homicides at a rate of 10x the highest number ever recorded in the states. Also, it seems that if you use a gun to defend yourself, the chances that your antagonist also has a gun magically jump by 25% from the norm. Huh. Wonder why that is?

          Somehow, the idea that, calling these gun happy good-ol’ boys from the south more than anywhere else might have got him a bunch of people who — quite simply — were lying about their experience is never brought up.

          The argument that there are lots of deaths elsewhere is irrelevant. After all, it’s not a zero sum game where restricting guns somehow prevents you from also addressing vehicular deaths etc.

          However, I will point out that trying to compare rates by number like that is misleading.. because there are a hell of a lot more vehicles which are used a hell of a lot more often. The odds of someone using a vehicle and it harming someone are absolutely miniscule compared to the odds of someone using a firearm and it harming someone — because that’s the explicit purpose of a firearm.

  3. Actually I just bought some stock in American gun manufacturers after they took a slight dip in the past few days over this. I figure in a few weeks the NRA will come forward, nix everything and the stock will go back up to pre-shooting levels. America will always love its guns more than its children and if I can make some cash off of it why the heck not.

    And if I’m wrong, well then so much the better. I’ll gladly take the hit if it means better gun safety in the country with which we share the world’s longest undefended border.

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