Obama takes on the NRA

President Obama unveiled sweeping gun-control legislation to stem “the epidemic of gun violence.”

What happened

President Obama this week unveiled sweeping gun-control legislation to stem “the epidemic of gun violence,” setting up a fierce clash with pro-gun lobbyists and congressional legislators. Flanked by children who wrote to him in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the president called on Congress to swiftly implement universal background checks on all gun buyers, reinstate an expired ban on military-style assault rifles, and restore a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines. Obama also outlined 23 executive orders he would sign immediately, including ending a freeze on research into gun violence and improving mental-health and school-safety programs. “If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try,” Obama said.

The proposals will face strong opposition in Congress. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said that he doesn’t believe a ban on assault weapons could pass the Republican-controlled House, and wasn’t confident it would pass the Senate. And in a sign of the bitter fight to come, the powerful National Rifle Association sent out an urgent fundraising appeal to its 4 million members, saying, “This is the fight of the century,” and simultaneously launched a scathing TV advertising campaign. The ad accused the president of being an “elitist hypocrite” for having armed Secret Service agents protect his two daughters while opposing armed guards at the nation’s schools. The White House denounced the ad as “repugnant and cowardly.”

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What the editorials said

Obama’s grandiose proposals would “trample the rights of law-abiding citizens without doing anything to prevent mass shootings,” said The Detroit News. If these bans had been in place last year, Adam Lanza would still have been able to use his mom’s legally obtained guns to massacre kids at an unguarded school. In 1999, it was illegal to sell assault weapons—yet the Columbine school shootings happened anyway. The phrase “assault weapons” is meaningless, said NationalReview.com. Such weapons are “functionally indistinguishable” from any semiautomatic hunting rifle, which even Obama wouldn’t dare to ban. His proposals are nothing more than “gun-control theater.”

Actually, this legislative package could save a lot of lives, said The New York Times. Because of loopholes in the law, up to 40 percent of gun sales take place without background checks, “including most guns that are later used in crimes.” Requiring background checks at gun shows, online arms stores, and other private sales “would reduce the cash-and-carry anonymity of millions of gun transactions,” and “would have no effect on law-abiding citizens who want a hunting rifle or a handgun to keep at home.”

What the columnists said

If Congress does nothing else, it should ban high-capacity magazines, said George Gascon in Politico.com. In every one of the 22 mass shootings between 1984 and 2011, the killer used a clip that carried more than 10 bullets. Those oversized magazines enabled the shooters to collectively fire more than 1,500 rounds in schools, workplaces, churches, and other public places, murdering 225 people, and wounding 242 more. Bystanders or police were able to overpower the shooters only when they stopped to reload. There is no need in civil society for such weapons of mass destruction.

Every American has a fundamental right to own such weapons, said Erick Erickson in RedState.com. The nation’s Founders were revolutionaries who wrote the Second Amendment not just to enable Americans to ward off burglars, but to give them the ability to overthrow tyrannical governments. “You may think a 30-round magazine is too big. Under the real purpose of the Second Amendment, a 30-round magazine might be too small.”

In the NRA, Obama is taking on a very formidable opponent, said Ron Fournier in TheAtlantic.com. The organization will threaten every red state and rural congressman and woman with the loss of their jobs if they vote for the president’s proposals, and “the odds are stacked against him.” Obama admitted that this week, saying the only way gun laws will change “is if the American people demand it.” Now we’ll find out if they do.

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