If the president is serious about curbing gun violence, this is what he needs to do.
On Sunday, gun rights groups boldly predicted that President Obama's attempt to place further restrictions on "assault weapons" and high capacity magazines will fail in Congress. I hope they are right.
Gun rights groups on Sunday forecast that bids to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips would fail in Congress, as Vice President Joe Biden prepares this week to give President Barack Obama proposals to curb gun violence.
Even some congressional Democrats indicated that a bill to revive the U.S. assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 would have a difficult time winning passage in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate.
"An assault weapons stand-alone ban - on just guns alone ... in the political reality that we have today, will not go anywhere," Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, himself a gun owner, told the CNN program "State of the Union."
National Rifle Association President David Keene signaled little appetite for compromise as the White House considers action on gun violence after the December 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
"What we put the brakes on is anything that simply takes away a person's Second Amendment right for no good reason," Keene told the CNN show, referring to the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of the right to bear arms.
"The likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress," Keene said. Asked about new limits on high-capacity ammunition clips, he added: "I don't think ultimately they are going to get that either."
Gun shows are a different matter in my book since I'm told that they don't perform background checks at gun shows. Why that loophole exists is a mystery to me, and closing it doesn't seem like too much to ask. The background checks that all of us have to endure when we purchase a rifle, shotgun, or pistol in a gun store may not be perfect, but they discourage known felons and people with a history of mental illness from attempting to buy guns.
That said, if the president is serious about curbing gun violence, I think he can get bipartisan support if he focuses his attention on these issues:
1. Stiffen penalties for felons who obtain and/or possess weapons.
2. Do more to make sure that people with mental problems have a difficult time obtaining weapons.
3. Drop the useless phrase "assault weapon" since any weapon of any sort is a potential assault weapon in the wrong hands, even a baseball bat.
4. Persuade his comrades in Hollywood to curtail the mindless and gratuitous gun violence that they peddle to the public. I'm sure they'll listen to him -- not. I suspect that it will take more than a friendly request from the president to effect change in Hollywood. They are liberal to a fault on almost every moral issue, especially the one pertaining to money. They love money more than everything else, and as Paul wrote to Timothy, the love of money is the root of all evil. Unfortunately, violence on the silver screen sells.
5. Stop pretending that magazine capacity has anything to do with gun violence because it doesn't. Criminal elements in the United States can obtain high capacity magazines and fully automatic weapons in which to use them as easily as buying police protection in Chicago or influencing the votes of corrupt members of Congress. Restricting magazine capacity will have no bearing whatsoever on criminals and thugs, but it will limit the options available to law-abiding citizens who may be forced to defend themselves from attacks by criminals and marauding bands of malcontents bent on destruction -- people from whom President Obama curried favor in his bid for re-election.
6. Introduce legislation that will make uniform concealed carry permits legal in all states. As things stand now, if you travel from state to state, you are taking a great risk if you carry a gun even if you have a concealed carry permit. In Massachusetts, for example, having a gun can land people like me in jail for 18 months because Massachusetts doesn't recognize South Carolina concealed carry permits. That shouldn't be a hard sell in the Bay State because they are determined to force the rest of us to accept their gay marriage laws even though they violate our laws and our sense of right and wrong.
7. Drop the idiotic designation "Gun Free Zone." Do the president and members of Congress honestly believe that criminals and mentally ill people are dissuaded from carrying guns into places that they know are supposed to be gun free? I hope not. The only people who respect that senseless restriction are the very same people that you want to have guns so they can confront criminals before they do too much damage. The rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School wouldn't have been nearly as catastrophic as it was if someone nearby had had a gun and knew how to use it.
8. The president should do something that causes law-abiding citizens to realize that he understands why we think that owning guns and ammunition at this time makes perfect sense. To be successful, he'll need to demonstrate that he understands the connection between endless deficit spending, unaffordable debt levels, and the welfare mentality on the potential for violence. Law-abiding gun owners see the relationship even if he doesn't, and they are preparing for what might and probably will happen if he and members of Congress don't do their job.
President Obama may have won a second term as president, but he did absolutely nothing to allay the fears of roughly half of the population who see him as the principal enabler of elements in this country who are prone to violence if they don't get things exactly their way. In fact, his campaign reinforced our belief that he is bound and determined to bring us to our knees in submission to him and his vision of what government ought to be.
Our fears are not irrational since it's mathematically impossible for things to continue as they are indefinitely. The day is rapidly approaching when the random acts of violence that we dread will become reality unless the president and Congress act swiftly. When that day comes, we will need the weapons and magazines that the president is trying to demonize to defend ourselves and our families.
Neil Snyder is the Ralph A. Beeton Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia. His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.