Obama on target on guns
President Barack Obama wants stronger gun regulations. So, evidently, do most Americans: An Associated Press poll released Wednesday found that 58 percent of those surveyed favor stricter guns laws.
But despite the increased public support for tougher firearms rules in the wake of last month’s horrific slaughter of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Congress appears unlikely to pass much — if any — of the gun legislation advocated by the president.
Thus, President Obama, in addition to announcing the changes he wants lawmakers to approve, signed a series of executive orders Wednesday aimed at reducing gun violence.
Most of those edicts seem to be worthy measures within the proper bounds of White House power.
That’s reassuring. In this nation of laws, positive ends can’t justify the negative means of imperial-presidency overreach.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association is again flexing its political muscle in resisting most of the president’s ideas.
However, as Mr. Obama pointed out Wednesday: “An overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks — including more than 70 percent of the National Rifle Association’s members, according to one survey.”
Indeed, NRA President David Keene said Thursday on “CBS This Morning” that the organization has been “generally supportive” of stronger background checks — and remains so.
On Wednesday, President Obama also correctly stressed the importance of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill — a goal the NRA says it shares.
Unfortunately, though, the NRA and other gun-rights groups are still fighting against a restoration of the federal “assault weapons” ban, which lapsed in 2004. That means Americans can legally buy military-style, semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 used in the Newtown horror. That rifle was equipped with 30-round magazines. Some legal semi-automatic guns have magazines with 50 or even 100 rounds.
Yes, as the old saying goes: If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.
Yet the assault weapons ban wouldn’t “outlaw guns.” It would merely outlaw military-style guns of extraordinary killing capacity.
And while a ban on such weapons wouldn’t be a panacea against mass shootings, it would be a reasonable — and constitutional — move.
After all, our Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms” doesn’t include the right to keep and bear bazookas.
As for overwrought alarms about the government having lists of registered gun owners, don’t look now, but it has long had lists of licensed drivers.
Unfortunately, though, many politicians in Washington — and Columbia — are still doing the NRA’s hardheaded bidding.
And the gun debate has long produced hard feelings on both sides.
A new NRA television commercial even condemns the president as an “elitist hypocrite” for sending his daughters to a school with armed guards while pushing for stronger gun-control laws.
The ad’s unseen voice asks: “Are the president’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?”
No, the president’s kids aren’t “more important than yours.”
But they are obviously at a much higher security risk than most children.
And one of the executive orders signed by the president on Wednesday will help fund hiring more school resource officers — presumably including armed ones if that’s what communities want.
OK, so the president did some pandering of his own Wednesday by using four children as props during his gun-policy presentation at the White House.
He also can’t claim that voters re-elected him to tighten gun laws: During his successful presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, he ran not on, but away from, the issue.
Plus, Obamacare, trillion-dollar deficits and a “fiscal cliff” deal heavy on tax hikes and light on spending cuts make Americans on the political right understandably wary about this president of the political left.
On guns, though, President Obama is simply proposing practical — and constitutional — new regulations that Americans, regardless of ideological persuasion, should support.
That’s not an assault on the Second Amendment.
It’s an overdue, common-sense effort to advance public safety.