Lawmakers must rise above politics and craft sensible gun control laws
Three months after the shocking Newtown tragedy, America’s top lawmakers remain unable to take action on gun-control legislation. Instead, a fierce fight between President Obama and the gun lobby is on the rise.
The gun lobby portrays Obama as an elite hypocrite who wants to abolish the Second Amendment by taking away Americans’ right to self-defense.
Since the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the Supreme Court officially interpreted the Second Amendment only once, in June 2008, when it overturned Washington, D.C.’s 32-year-old ban on handguns with a 5-4 vote. A narrow margin but a big win for the gun lobby. Sympathizing with Washington’s problems with crime and guns, Justice Atnonin Scalia wrote in the majority statement, “The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns.”
Although the historic Supreme Court verdict kept the doors open for future gun regulation, it came just a few months before Obama started his first term. Whether influenced by this or not, Obama’s entire first-term record on gun control consisted of signing a bill that made it easier to carry firearms in America’s national parks.
However, on Jan. 16, moved by the Newtown tragedy, Obama signed 23 executive orders to prevent future gun violence, and he proposed significant gun-control legislation, including an assault-weapons ban, limits on high-capacity magazines and universal background checks.
According to a recent CNN poll, 62 percent of Americans favor an assault-weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines. A similar Pew poll found that 85 percent of Americans back a universal background check. In spite of overwhelming public support, the president’s proposal is unlikely to pass the House.
The gun lobby vehemently opposes the president’s proposal, claiming that most mass shooters have preferred handguns over assault weapons and didn’t have criminal records to suggest the proposed legislation could work.
Defending his proposal, the president has responded, “If there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”
But will gun-control legislation save lives?
In a recent Time/CNN poll, 74 percent of Americans thought the primary cause of gun violence in America was either “ways parents raised their children” or “influences of pop culture.” Only 23 percent said it was the “availability of guns.” This suggests that even perfect gun-control legislation could restrain gun violence only partially at most.
However, the issue is no more how gun-control legislation will curb gun violence. The real concerns are whether the American legislative system is too crippled to take an action and whether vested interests of powerful lobbies can indefinitely hold hostage the legitimate expectations of the American people.
If our lawmakers cannot legislate gun control just because the gun lobby controls them, how can they be trusted to fight major causes of gun
If there is any wisdom in America’s collective opinion, our lawmakers ought to be ready to strengthen America’s family bonds and sense of community to keep our kids away from violence. And to truly uproot gun violence, they ought to retune Hollywood’s pop culture, which nurtures violence, especially among American youth, in the name of entertainment.
A successful fight with the gun lobby now only will prepare our lawmakers to face the Hollywood lobby in future.
Can our lawmakers win over powerful lobbies? Sure, by paying heed to President Rutherford B. Hayes’ advice: “He serves his party best who serves his country best.”
Now is the time for our lawmakers to rise above their party affiliations, to put aside their political and economic interests and, above all, to subdue their egos in favor of sensible gun-control legislation. That will be nothing less than what the American people expect and what the families of Newtown’s victims deserve.