Open Forum: Gun rights, or ‘tranquility’?
Posted: February 15, 2013
The current national debate on gun control has invoked and revealed a colossal divergence and expansive range of emotions, passions, motivations, justifications, consequences, etc., along with horrific grief, sadness, sorrow, and anguish, all incited by the escalating incidents of gun-related violence and high-profile mass shootings.
According to Mother Jones magazine, since 1982, there have been 62 mass shootings across the country, of which 25 have occurred since 2006 with the 12 deadliest occurring since 2007, and 2012 by far the worst year of such tragic events with seven instances of mass-gun violence and 151 victims injured or killed, more than a quarter children and teenagers.
There has been escalating outcry and demand for actions to reduce such gun-related tragedies, especially following the Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Aurora disasters, but it was the most recent carnage in Newtown, Conn., where 20 young children were among 26 persons shot and killed, that has elevated the demand for sensible and life-saving measures to reduce gun violence.
A Feb. 4 Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that most Americans support tough new measures to counter violence, including banning assault weapons — with 52 percent saying the shooting at Newtown has made them more supportive of gun control, along with mandatory background checks for all firearm purchases.
And there are some positive movements that lend hope to this new momentum for making America safer by restricting the availability of the types of weapons most commonly used in mass killings. On Jan. 15, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed one of the nation’s toughest gun-control measures. This success was highlighted shortly afterward by a One Million Moms for Gun Control Rally in New York City calling on Congress to follow New York’s lead and enact tough gun-control legislation.
Maryland, Delaware, and Connecticut are among states pressing for legislation to tighten bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Also, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings on gun violence, with committee chair, Patrick Leahy, stating, “This is an important conversation for children, for our community, for Democrats and Republicans . . .Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. We must do something.”
Then there is strong support for and specific initiatives underway by President Obama and Vice President Biden to increase pressure on Congress to pass legislation to help provide a reasonable solution to this national dilemma.
But the road ahead for those demanding gun-control measures by Congress will be steep and perilous, inundated with intractable obstacles and supercilious intransigence. Simply put, a daunting challenge awaits the valiant.
For starters, there continues to be substantial opposition among a broad-based segment of Americans, including members of Congress, and an array of influential private and public officials and politicians who are strong supporters of Second Amendment rights, which clearly complicates any and every effort toward a compromise on gun control.
But a far more formidable hurdle for supporters of tighter gun-control measures will be the insidious and recalcitrant forces of one of the most powerful lobbying organizations ever, the National Rifle Organization, which has successfully opposed or defeated every gun-related legislative effort since expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004.
The NRA’s predominant strategy in recent years has been to turn gun ownership into an absolute unbridgeable right, while rejecting any restrictions even on the most lethal military-designed assault weapons, or any expansion of background checks and gun registration requirements — largely based on fallacious characterizations and use of fear tactics to portray any effort to reduce gun violence as the government’s attempt to take away gun-owners’ right to own guns.
According to a Dec. 17, 2012, New York Times editorial, experts from the Harvard School of Public Health, using data from 26 developed countries, concluded that wherever there are more firearms, there are more homicides — and in case of the United States, exponentially more, with the U.S. murder rate being roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries with tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.
It further notes that other nations suffering similar rampages have reacted quickly to impose stricter gun laws, citing Australia, Scotland, and Japan among countries that have substantially reduced gun violence. Of the countries surveyed, only two considered civilian ownership of a firearm a basic right: the U.S. and Yemen.
Yet, the NRA and its allies continue to oppose any attempt to enact reasonable legislation to help reduce gun violence in America, which resulted in 31,328 deaths in 2010, according to Bloomberg.
So, is infringement on Second Amendment rights the paramount concern of Americans, or is it the constitutional assurance of “protecting the public welfare and insuring domestic tranquility”?
Guss L. Morrison is a resident of Frederick County.