Communications and Public Relations Intern
After witnessing the horrific events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting unfold during the news broadcasts in the comfort of my apartment, I wondered how long it would take for President Obama to take this unfortunate opportunity to reconsider America’s gun control laws. Fortunately for me and other gun control advocates, the discussion came to the table rather quickly. Within days of the incident, President Obama set forth a number of proposals for Congress, and in the form of Executive Orders, in order to curb the rampant mass shootings that seem to occur more and more frequently in out nation without respite. The New York Times outlined President Obama’s proposal for Congressional Actions in the following list:
- Require criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers.
- Reinstate and strengthen the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994-2004.
- Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
- Ban possession of armor-piercing bullets by anyone other than military and law enforcement agents.
- Increase penalties for “straw purchasers” (people who buy a gun on behalf of someone who cannot meet the necessary ownership qualifications).
- Additional plans to keep more police on the streets, better training programs for first responders, track data on violent deaths, help all schools develop effective response plans, and expand mental health programs for young people.
According to an ABC Poll, 53% of the public favors Obama’s proposal while 41% are opposed. Breaking down the poll by party affiliation highlights the grinding tension between Democrats and Republicans, with 76% of Democrats fully supporting the proposal and 72% of Republicans against it. However, there are some aspects of the proposal that the majority of Republicans agree with. For example, nearly 9 out of 10 Republicans surveyed support background checks for gun purchasers. 65% reported supporting the idea of adding armed guards in schools and 59% support a ban on high capacity ammunition magazines.
Why do Republicans tend to disagree with gun control laws, even in the face of tragedy? For one, their close ties with the NRA make it financially agreeable to support NRA initiatives. NRA President David Kenne is the former chair of the American Conservative Union and is a notable donor and active supporter of the Republican Party. The NRA’s proposal to solve gun violence in the U.S. is to fix our broken mental health system and prosecute criminals more harshly. In addition, conservatives oppose gun control because it is President Obama who is setting out the proposal. The obvious disdain many conservative representatives have for the progressive president is apparently reason enough to block any proposal he submits. It is instances like these in which stubborn representatives who dig in their heels hurts the nation while supporting party ties that have no actual effect on the average citizen’s existence.
Chris Bedford of The Daily Caller outlined the following five reasons why Republicans argue against Obama’s gun control proposal.
- The Constitution’s Second Amendment.
- Rates of violent crime have declined in the U.S. since before the American Revolution (despite sporadic increases and decreases).
- Only 2.6% of all murders are caused by an assault weapon.
- Most people who own a gun are average law abiding citizens.
- The fact that criminals ignore laws bureaucrats set in place, doesn’t mean more laws will solve anything.
I have two problems with the arguments above. First, if conservatives are going to protect the Second Amendment, they should also protect the First Amendment and not indict violent television and video games as causes for the most recent tragedies (especially because the NRA recently released its own video game teaching children how to shoot a gun). The second issue I have is with the idea that “only 2.6% of all murders are caused by an assault weapon.” If I think of all of the news broadcasts about the multiple mass shootings that have happened in my twenty-two years of life, and then associate these memories with the number 2.6%, I wonder, what about the other 97.4%? According to GunPolicy.org, in 2011 there were 11,101 gun homicides in the United States. Declaring that assault weapons cause a minimal amount of deaths should not serve as a protection for assault weapons. Instead, we must consider that, if all the horrific things we have heard about concerning mass shootings comprise only a small percentage of gun violence, then there are a lot more untold small-scale shootings that receive little attention, but are equally lethal to the victims.
Overall, I believe that we should all be able to agree that changes need to made somewhere, whether it’s gun control, better protection in schools, better training for protection services, improving mental health programs or, better yet, a combination of all four. However, the only way meaningful changes can be made is for officials to recognize and internalize the severity of these problems, and work together to fix them, rather than allowing party differences to stagnate every political disagreement that exists.