Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Obama fights for tighter gun controls... Takes executive action

A tearful President Obama outlined new restrictions on gun purchases

An emotional US President Barack Obama has unveiled new restrictions on gun purchases, saying the "constant excuses for inaction" have to stop. Wiping away tears, the president recalled the Sandy Hook primary school shooting in 2012 where 20 children and six adults were killed.
His executive actions, without Congress approval, widen background checks on potential gun buyers. But the National Rifle Association said it would fight Mr Obama's measures.
And the leader of the House of Representatives, Republican Paul Ryan, said the plans were certain to be challenged in the courts.
"His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty," he said.
Meanwhile, sales of guns in the US appear to have risen, amid speculation in recent weeks that the White House was going to tighten the law. Earlier, the president announced the law change at the White House, while surrounded by survivors and relatives of victims of shootings.
"The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can't hold America hostage," Mr Obama said.
An emotional president employed all of his rhetorical skill to justify what are, in reality, executive actions that only modestly expand federal regulation of firearm sales.
Standing in a room filled with victims of gun violence, he explained that the murder of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, changed him - and that he hoped it would change the country.
Three years have passed since that school massacre, however, and the country hasn't changed. While some states have toughened their laws, others have expanded gun rights and the US Congress has taken no action.

So Mr Obama did what he could, and wrapped the move in language that sounded more appropriate for a ceremony announcing the passage of sweeping legislation that, in today's political environment, has no chance of reaching his presidential desk.
And even this small move will likely be fiercely challenged in court, in Congress and at the ballot box by whichever Republican wins the nomination fight to replace him in 2017.

Gun violence is significantly higher in the US than in other advanced countries, killing about 30,000 people each year. Congress has been reluctant (or scared) to pass any laws making gun ownership more difficult, facing pressure from gun owners and the powerful National Rifle Association.
Mr Obama tried to pass expanded background check legislation in 2012 after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead but it failed in Congress.

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was the victim of a shooting, attended the White House event

The executive actions include:
- Background checks for all gun sellers, overturning current exemptions to some online and gun show sellers
- States providing information on people disqualified from buying guns due to mental illness or domestic violence
- Increased workforce for the FBI to process background checks, hiring more than 230 new examiners
- Congress being asked to invest $500m to improve access to mental healthcare in the US
- The departments of defence, justice and homeland security exploring "smart gun technology" to improve gun safety

The announcement is already shaping up to be an issue in the 2016 presidential election.
Leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: "@POTUS is right: We can protect the second Amendment while protecting our families and communities from gun violence. And we have to."
Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the executive actions are unconstitutional, with a link to sign up for his campaign correspondence on a webpage that says "Obama wants your guns" with a photo of the president in an army jacket and hat.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted that he would repeal the actions and protect the Second Amendment.

During Mr Obama's speech, comedian Amy Schumer, cousin of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, was in the audience. Two women died in a shooting at a movie theatre in Louisiana during a showing of her movie Train wreck. Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman who survived a shooting, was there as well, in addition to many relatives of victims and survivors of mass shooting.

Shares in gunmaker Smith & Wesson rose to their highest value since 1999 ahead of the president's announcement. The number of background checks on potential buyers - a guide to future sales - has risen in the wake of mass shootings in the past. Is this  executive action enough to  effectively reduce mass killings ?  Probably not, but if it helps to prevent just one Sandy Hook massacre, then it was worth the excruciatingly slow process to get here.
Until assault rifles ( which where created for the artillery, a military detachment of the armed forces that uses large-caliber weapons for combat on the ground with terrorists and enemies of our country) are made illegal or at least unavailable to citizens who are not in a war zone, then there will be mass shootings and massacres because that is the weapon of choice of terrorists, nut jobs, disgruntled employees, angry husbands and every door knob who is bored with his life and thinks it might be amusing to slaughter some people. 

According to Wikipedia:
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are currently the standard service rifles in most modern armies.
By strict definition, a firearm must have the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:
  • It must be an individual weapon;
  • It must be capable of selective fire, which means it has the capacity to switch between semiautomatic and fully automatic fire.
  • Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable box magazine;
  • And it should at least have an effective range of 300 metres (330 yards).
Technically, the AR-15 fires 800 rounds a minute (source: Wikipedia), which is 13.3 rounds per second.  This is for the full-auto version. So 'technically', although unlikely, a doorknob with an AR-15 and perfect aim could kill 800 hundred people in a minute. Why does the average citizen need to own such weapons??
 Steve Denny, a former FBI agent and a Navy veteran, estimates the number of AR-15s domestically owned in the United States now, to be "somewhere around 8 or 9 million. And that number just represents one kind of semi automatic weapon." Really?
It is so beyond my comprehension, I have no more words to address it.

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