The parents of a murdered seven-year-old boy were interviewed by CBS journalist Seth Doane this week, one month after the Sandy Hook shooting. It was a heartbreaking interview where the father, Mark Barden, described his late son Daniel as an optimist. The mother, Jackie Barden, speaking and holding back the tears, admitted that the pain was unbearable and conceded that there was little likelihood she will feel better for some time to come.
The interview came after both parents had a conversation with Vice-President Joe Biden and they said they were hopeful that new measures restricting easy access to guns would eventually come to pass. Jackie also confided to Doane about her recent efforts to purchase a kitten. An elaborate background check and a request for a series of references led her to complain that it was “easier to buy a gun than a kitten in the U.S.” It was also easier to get a gun than to get a driver’s license, she said.
A month after the Newtown tragedy, the debate between gun-control advocates and guns-rights advocates is in full force. The task force led by Joe Biden has now proposed a holistic approach, involving measures dealing with gun-crime research, background checks, a ban on assault weapons, better mental health resources and stiffer penalties for gun trafficking. The approach involves a mixture of executive and legislative actions.
President Obama, understandably moved by the shooting in Newtown, has decided to act in a forceful manner on the eve of his second inaugural address, and the state of the union address in February. He will be supported by the pro-gun-control side of the ledger. This includes impressive spokespersons former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (wounded in the Tucson, Az. shootings in January 2011), her husband and astronaut Mark Kelly, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, major gun control groups and relatives of victims from recent mass shootings in Newtown, Conn. and Aurora, Col. With New York Governor Mario Cuomo just signing the nation’s most restrictive law on guns, Obama is in good company to argue his case to the nation.
The NRA leadership, and other gun advocates, continue to see this as an attempt to reduce Second Amendment rights. On social media, users shower Twitter and Facebook with arguments that border on hysteria and paranoia. Some are even talking about civil war and impeaching the president if he dares act to restrict the Second Amendment. While the Newtown shooting has put these advocates more on the defensive than ever before, one must not underestimate their financial resources, and their influence on legislation and in the media.
Hopefully, there will be some changes in the purchase and use of guns in America, but it will likely not be as much as is needed. The House of Representatives, with its low approval rating, is not expected to be very constructive in making the legislative route a productive one for significant reforms. Obama will also act through executive orders, but the impact will be limited. At the end of the day, however, the hope is that the eventual changes will at least make it harder to buy a gun in the United States than it is to buy a kitten.