Common Sense Gun Control

President Obama has recently proposed a plan that would impose new gun control measures on the American public. He also signed 23 executive orders to help further his crusade of limiting gun violence. That is an extensive list to cover, so I’m going to stick to the four main pieces of legislation President Obama desires Congress to pass.

Proposed Legislation

The most contentious law President Obama wants codified is a ban on assault weapons. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has already signed into law a bill that requires a “statewide re-registration of all handguns and grandfathered assault weapons.” In response, New York assemblyman Raymond Walter highlighted New York’s violent crime statistics, which indicate that of the four people per 100,000 murdered each year, rifles account for a mere .03 percent of the killings. In fact, in 2011 only five people died from being shot with rifles, while 28 died from being pummeled with fists. I guess since you can’t ban fists, assault rifles are the next best thing. In all seriousness, though, a ban on assault weapons seems like it would do more harm than good. I would also find it to be unconstitutional pursuant to United States v. Miller (1939).

President Obama’s next target would be high-capacity magazines. He has proposed legislation limiting the size of ammunition magazines to 10 bullets or fewer, which is not a bad idea. When Jared Lee Loughner shot Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, he was able to fire 31 bullets in 15 seconds. It was only when he had to reload that bystanders wrestled the gun from him. If he had to reload after the first ten shots, some of his victims would probably be alive today. Moreover, limiting clip size to 10 rounds is not going to hinder anyone from defending themselves from a mugger, burglar, or insane co-worker. What I mean by that is that if you can’t drop your target with 10 shots, your target will probably drop you, and you may strike innocent bystanders by accident. I am not necessarily opposed to a ban on high-capacity magazines, but I will return to the topic of magazine size later.

The President would like to close loopholes that allow gun buyers to circumvent the background check system. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 40 percent of gun sales are completed without a background check. Most of these occur at gun shows or over the Internet. Regulating gun show purchases is something I support wholeheartedly, as it is common sense to require everybody get a background check before purchasing a firearm.

President Obama believes that Congress would also do well to enact a federal statute stopping “straw man” purchases of firearms in order to hamstring trafficking rings. Ironically, the ATF actually gave the okay on “straw man” purchases in Operation Fast and Furious and lost hundreds of guns during Obama’s first term, so maybe the government can crack down on itself before looking elsewhere.

My Concerns

The President’s proposals to limit the manufacture and sale of new assault weapons and ammunition clips with more than 10 bullets would not affect those already on the market, so the confiscation of guns grandfathered in wouldn’t be a concern… yet. Allow me to clarify. Even though I am supportive of most of these ideas, I do not like knee-jerk responses. If these pieces of legislation are passed, what are we to expect next time a school full of children is shot up, or a park, or a theater for that matter? If these measures fail to produce the intended results, I am afraid that Democrats may push for even tougher measures.

NewAdamOndoIcon-285x300I am not saying that we shouldn’t do anything, but I think more analysis and uniform action is necessary. Just look at New York’s new restrictions on magazine capacity. Gov. Cuomo has gone even further than Obama has called for by limiting the capacity to no more than seven rounds. When asked why seven, Cuomo responded, “Because [access to] the high-capacity magazines that give you the capacity to kill a large number of human beings in a very short period of time [are] nonsensical to a civil society.” Now, having seven bullets isn’t much different than ten, so the legislation itself isn’t that devastating to people who want to defend themselves. However, the fact that legislators are quibbling over whether they should allow seven or ten or fifteen bullets is worrisome. If Cuomo thinks that a 10 bullet maximum is nonsensical what is to stop Governor Jerry Brown of California from saying seven is nonsensical, so five is the new limit?

Long Island Assemblyman Joseph Saladino also made a valid point when he said that a seven bullet limit “would not have stopped that horrible and tragic crime [in Newtown, Connecticut].” I think that in the Loughner case in Arizona, clip size would have made a difference, but the shooter in this instance faced little resistance from his victims and could have carried multiple loaded guns, thus shrinking the already small windows the teachers may have had to tackle him. The only way to truly prevent a tragedy like that would be to arm teachers, and allow open carry in general. If Obama really wants to see a decrease in mass shootings, all he needs to do is emulate Texas.

Adam Ondo | University of Rochester | @JoplinMaverick

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