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Gun control laws made in haste will be regretted at leisure

At the top of President Obama's wish list is the revival of the 1994 "Assault Weapon Ban," only more inclusive this time.

By Nancy Thorner and Edward Ingold of Mundelein


President Obama promised to make tackling gun violence a top priority of his second-term agenda, despite strong opposition to gun control.  A group led by Vice President Joe Biden was asked to come up with specific proposals in January.  

The strategy of President Obama and the Democrats is to hurry, hurry, hurry to make a decision, whether on gun control or the economy. We don't have time for debate. Let's take action while emotions are running high. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

It's like trying to have a conversation while someone is beating drums in the same room. Sometime those drums are real, as we see in the news clips of the debates in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan over right-to-work legislation, or in the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations.

Part of this strategy is to gather apparently diverse groups to make it appear as though you have a consensus. We see Joe Biden meeting with police organizations for photo ops in which he told several law enforcement leaders, "The President is absolutely committed to keeping his promise that we will act.  And we will act in a way that...if we can only save one life, we have to take action."  That statement implies than the ends justify the means,

Don't be fooled by the collection of badges and blue surrounding the Vice President. The Fraternal Order of Police is a union with a liberal agenda not shared by the majority of officers. Police chiefs work at the pleasure of the mayor of their city, and are unlikely to publicly disagree with their boss in any fashion. The underlying strategy is to push something through Congress before cooler heads can prevail. 

Politicians on the fence about gun control are interviewed under conditions which any comment against a rush to judgment will make them seem insensitive. Senator Joe Manchin is a particular example, a Democrat from West Virginia who has otherwise consistently voted in favor of responsible gun owners.  Pro-gun-rights Joe Manchin drew attention in 2010 after running a commercial that showed him firing a rifle at an environmental bill harmful to his state.  Now he is saying that "everything should be on the table" when gun control comes up for debate in the coming weeks and months.  

The other strategy is to pass on misinformation, often unwittingly, by talking heads and pundits on cable news (yes, even Fox News). "We have to clamp down on internet sales," is one theme, even though internet sales are subject to the same rules and procedures as sales in a gun shop.

Another is:  "These guns are used to kill and maim humans, not for hunting."  In fact, any firearm or ammunition will kill and maim humans, as will a knife or pointed stick.  When you hunt with a firearm, animals are killed by trauma, not from fear at the sight of an hunter or rifle.  Most important, self-defense is a Constitutionally protected right, but hunting is a privilege granted by the state.

Scare words are likewise used.  Semi-automatic rifles and pistols are called "Assault Weapons," although only a vanishingly small number are ever used to assault someone.  Revolvers become "Saturday Night Specials" in the lexicon of gun-haters.  "Semi-automatic" (one trigger pull, one shot) becomes synonymous with "automatic" (one trigger pull, many shots).

The strategy also seeks to dismiss any views to the contrary as being politically motivated, partisan or biased. The favorite bugaboo is the National Rifle Association (NRA) , a "powerful lobbying organization." The NRA is powerful only to the extent that it has 4.3 million members (growing by leaps and bounds), and a much wider association of sympathizers, who care deeply and write their legislators.

As a lobbying organization, it is not in the top ten, nor even in the top 100 of those groups attempting to influence Congress. It is powerful due to the commitment of its members, not the depth of its pockets, for the ideas which it represents, not for financial gain or special treatment. Since the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the NRA has registered an average of 8,000 new members a day.  

At the top of President Obama's wish list is the revival of the 1994 "Assault Weapon Ban," only more inclusive this time. Among the proposals under consideration is to include all semi-automatic rifles and handguns in the ban, not just those with resemble military weapons. This would affect the types of weapons preferred for self-defense by police and civilians alike, which brings them under the Heller decision of the Supreme Court, yet do nothing to actually reduce crime nor the availability of these weapons to criminals.

According to most estimate, there are over 200 million such firearms in private hands, including over 30 million semi-automatic "black" rifles, only a tiny fraction of which are ever used in the commission of a crime. The ban didn't work in the past, and it won't work in the future either. It's just low-hanging fruit for those who wish to disarm all civilians.

On the other hand, there are issues to be addressed that would help without punishing legitimate gun owners.  Among them is the inclusion of adjudicated (not merely opinions) issues regarding the mental health of applicants.  Privacy laws laws tend to keep this information out of the NICS data base, if not official ineptitude. Another would be to require background checks at gun shows or face-to-face (FTF), along with a mechanism which would aid in this process.

The so-called "Terror Watch List," is not a suitable criteria in a background check, since it is a secret process akin to star chamber proceedings of the 16th century, without any mechanism of appeal. Safeguards should always include a means to challenge and correct any errors in the data base, sadly lacking at present.

Another concern is  "Straw buyers," where a qualified individual buys a weapon on behalf of an unqualified person. 

Detractors would seek to limit sales to an individual to one firearm per month (year, or ever). In practice, only legitimate enthusiasts are affected. Drug cartels have an endless supply of willing buyers who have never before purchased a firearm. Street gangs use new recruits without a criminal record to do the same, often as a rite of initiation. If a permit is needed prior to the purchase, these recruits can easily obtain one.

Let's have a little quiet here!  People are thinking.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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