Gun Control Debate
11The Dichotomy of the Gun: Proposed Georgia, Mississippi State Laws Miss Central Point of Gun Debate
One of the fundamental problems in the gun control/gun rights argument is that the central item in the discussion, i.e. the gun, is seen as two completely different things from either side. For those who find themselves on the side of the spectrum that wants guns controlled (or banned outright) the gun is a terrifying death machine that ordinary citizens should not possess. For those on the side of the spectrum who prefers easy access to firearms (or mandatory ownership) the gun is the only real “protection” they trust.
Georgia lawmakers have recently introduced a bill that would essentially protect Georgians from any future federal laws that would “nullify certain federal laws…which attempts to govern firearms manufactured” in Georgia. Democratic State Senator Vincent Fort, who last year tried to pass an assault weapons ban, believes the new law is dangerous. He told CL Atlanta, “it’s unfortunate that this right-wing crowd [is] making these kind of extremist, ideological statements,” rather than focusing on the poor or the economy.
The ideological opposite of this bill is the recent "bullet control" proposal in the Mississippi State Legislature calling for individuals purchasing ammunition to provide personal details such as their name, Driver’s License, and Social Security Number. Law enforcement and government officials wouldn’t be the only people to have access to this information, but the records would be also open to the public.
No two individual laws better embody the central disconnect between the two sides of this argument. For gun control advocates, the idea that the entire state of Georgia would ignore federal laws seems to validate their position that there is no such thing as a “responsible” gun advocate. For those in favor of gun rights, the idea that purchasing some rounds means that the public has access to their personal information seems to validate their belief that the system is stacked against them.
What is difficult to address in legislation or even legislative discussion is the dichotomy of the gun. The thing these two laws have in common is that both come from a view of guns that the other side not only doesn’t share but doesn’t understand. A victim of gun crime wouldn’t see these weapons as protection from predators (human and animal), a way to put food on the table, or harmless sport and vice versa. Until this is addressed, any attempts to either protect gun-owners’ rights or responsibly limit everyone else’s risk will be doomed to fail on the national level.
Despite all of the recent gun control discussions – from assault rifle bans, to background checks, to high-round magazine bans – there has been a deafening silence on one of the issue's biggest problems: mental health.
Take a look at some statistics. Out of the 31,000 gun-related deaths in 2010, 19,000 of them were suicides. That’s almost 2/3 of the death toll, yet no one in DC is talking about it.
According to the Huffington Post, the suicide rate has exploded over the last decade, rising by 28% from 1999-2010. Out of the 30,000 annual suicides – which equates to one suicide per 45 attempts – 19,000 of them are from guns. That statistic should seem like déjà vu, as it is almost identical to the percentage of gun deaths that were from suicides.
Regardless of your place on the political spectrum, the correlation between guns and suicide cannot be ignored. As I said above, only in one in every 45 suicides is successful. But when guns enter the equation, this ratio changes drastically. The reason? Not many people survive a self-inflicted gunshot. A 2008 Harvard study found that the availability of lethal means, especially firearms, contribute directly towards whether suicide attempters live or die. A study by the Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center found that gun ownership rates correlate to suicide rates too. In states with high gun ownership rates, such as Wyoming, suicide rates are higher. In states with low gun ownership rates, suicide rates are lower.
Gun induced suicides are a huge problem, but what is the solution? I can tell you one thing for certain – politicizing the issue is the last thing we should do. Whether you are pro-gun or anti-gun, this is way too important a subject to let rational discussion be inhibited by how you vote on a ballot. Yes, guns can be used as a dangerously effective method for suicide. But you know what? People in good mental health don’t commit suicide, whether they have a gun or not. And for that matter, people in good mental health don’t walk into movie theatres and start shooting people, either. For as big of an issue as gun control is, these statistics should tell you that mental health is equally, possibly even more, important.
Mass shootings and historically-high suicide rates are not the mark of a nation in good mental health. The gun control debate is incredibly important for both Republicans and Democrats, but let’s drop it for just a moment. We’ve been gridlocked over it for months. Let’s take a brief, common-sense induced moment and start taking steps towards fixing the mental health issues that cause people to use guns violently in the first place.
This should be something we can all agree on.
A new Quinnipiac Poll that surveyed 1,471 voters found that Obama’s gun control stance isn’t winning him a lot of approval. Approximately 52% of voters said that they were unhappy with how he attempted to expand background checks.
Voters also aren’t terribly thrilled with Obama’s handling of the economy. Half of voters said they were disappointed with the President, while 41% approved.
Obama’s track record with immigration also got poor marks: 50% were unhappy compared to 40% who liked Obama’s course.
These figures may seem like a bad omen for President Obama, but other polling statistics are much more favorable. Voters liked the way that that he handled North Korea, terrorism, foreign policy, and 48% of voters gave him a thumbs-up overall.
In fact, voters are generally happy with the Democrat Party on the whole. Forty-one percent of voters reported that they are more likely to vote from Democrat congressional leaders, compared to 37% of voters who would vote Republican.
Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, explained, “there has been a consistent Democrat edge for several months.”
In contrast, a whopping 62% of voters said that Republicans in Congress don’t care about the voters’ needs; only 54% of voters said the same thing about Democrats.
It’s clear that the Democrats have pulled ahead in the national polls. Based on popular opinions about gun control, however, the Democrats might want to reconsider their restrictive policies in order to solidify their political lead over the Republicans. That might tone down Republican opposition, but it’s hard to gauge how much a watered-down gun control policy would tick off Democrat voters. Would they earn a few moderate voters at the expense of the gun control crowd?
Either way, Democrats have a long 18 months to figure out their political strategy before the voters head to the polls again. Will the Democrats be able to hold onto their political lead, or will the gun control issue give pro-gun politicians the edge they need to dethrone Democratic leadership?
Democrats have always counted young voters as their allies. There are exceptions, of course – not every voter between the ages of 18 and 29 leans to the left. By and large, though, the younger generation tends to hold liberal political positions.
That could all change -- Democrats may be losing the younger crowd to gun rights advocates.
A new study by Harvard University's Institute of Politics found that voters beneath the age of 29 aren’t terribly concerned about stricter gun control laws. Only 49% of that demographic wants tighter gun control laws. That might seem like a hefty number, but 54% of all voters overall want stricter gun laws.
One of the most peculiar findings of the poll is that young people are split along east-west geographical lines rather than north-south. John Della Volpe, a Harvard student who worked on the study, explained, “The survey found, on a regional basis that the West, by five-10 percentage points, preferred stronger gun laws, compared to other regions. That was a little surprising to me.”
Could California be the main factor that’s keeping some young voters on the side of gun control?
These poll results could be dire news for the Democrats and other gun control advocates. President Obama relied heavily on younger voters in both elections, so losing those votes to moderate and gun rights supporters could be a nail in the coffin on election day. Only 42% of millennials approve of the way that Obama has handled gun control, compared to 56% who think that he has done a poor job.
Democrats losing young votes because of gun control would be on par with Republicans losing Texas to immigrant votes – unexpected and game-changing. Democrats may have to rethink their gun control strategy in the months leading up to the next major election. Otherwise, a generation of young, gun-loving voters could fill the White House and Congress with NRA-backed politicians who reinvigorate the Second Amendment.
Source: USA News
Following the Newtown tragedy, Connecticut legislators led the charge on the gun control debate. Since then, the battle has shifted south to New Jersey, where parents of the Sandy Hook victims rallied for stricter gun control laws.
The parents were met with angry speeches and unhappy protestors. Gun rights supporters rallied against the new gun control measures at a public hearing at the Statehouse.
At the heart of the debate was a set of gun control bills approved by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. A bill that restricts the maximum size of magazines from 15 rounds to 10 rounds was conspicuously absent from the package.
The Sandy Hook parents and other parents want a stricter limit on magazine sizes, but gun rights advocates and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) have been putting up a fight. Sweeney said in a statement, “Twenty years ago, New Jersey implemented a limit on the size of ammunition clips. For two decades that limit has been effective. What we must focus on now is preventing guns from getting into the hands of those who should not have them. That means addressing issues of mental health, background checks, illegal guns, and straw purchases."
The rhetoric at the meeting was vicious to say the least. Gun owner Gleen Darwell of Forked River told legislators, "If you make me a criminal, I will stand once more and fulfill the Constitution. If my blood is in the street, it’s on your hands." State troopers later escorted Darwell out of the meeting after he said, “This hearing’s out of order.”
The assembly took public statements for four full hours before they stopped hearing new testimony. Angry gun rights advocates demanded an opportunity to speak and then the group spontaneously recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Proponents of the gun control legislation, on the other hand, applauded the legislators. “It is a good start but it needs to be complete by adding the 10-round limit for magazines that our citizens want and have demanded,” said BlueWaveNJ President Marcia Marley. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald added that “The difference between 15 and 10 could be your child.”
California has famously (or infamously, depending on your political affiliation) been the biggest advocate of gun control, but following New England’s recent flurry of gun control activity New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut may become a gun control trifecta that rivals the Golden State.
Shifting demographics may have led to a change in the political climate as gun-supporting politicians cater to their increasingly left-leaning constituents.
Determining whether a region is liberal or conservative often boils down to geography, with rural areas tending towards conservative, pro-gun ideals and urban areas supporting gun control and liberal politics. Cities aren’t becoming more rural, but countrysides are slowly becoming more urban.
Critical pro-gun states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have been shifting away from their gun rights roots to take more moderate stances on the gun control debate. Sens. Joe Manchin (D, WV) and Patrick J. Toomey (R, PA) both embody this shift. They hail from pro-gun states and have records of supporting gun rights, but these two politicians were instrumental in introducing new language into the gun control bill that helped avoid a filibuster by the Republicans.
Gun control proponent Matt Bennett of Third Way added that the compromise “was very sensible and smart politics because it really meets the moment that we’re in, which calls for that kind of flexibility and compromise.”
Americans saw foreshadowing of this new wave of liberal thought during the presidential election when Obama won swing states Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire. The influx of immigrants along the border gives conservatives even more cause for concern. Losing Texas to liberal voters would deal a crushing blow to the right on the federal level.
Democratic Senator Timothy Kaine of Virginia captured the essence of this geo-political shift when he said, “There is a respect for the Second Amendment. But we definitely understand, too, that there are balances.”
This is all bad news for gun rights activists and conservatives alike. American politics have been ever-so-slowly morphing away from red and closer to blue over the past several years – and if geography is the cause, then this change may very well be irrevocable. Americans see evidence of the shift every day as politicians lobby for gun control bills and traditionally pro-gun legislators inch to the left on voting day.
Just before Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law pivotal gun control legislation, President Barack Obama and gun rights advocates exchanged a volley of harsh rhetoric.
President Obama criticized – or “mocked” as Examiner writer Joe Newby would call it – the arguments of gun rights advocates. Obama said, “You hear some of these quotes, ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government.’ ‘We can’t do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away.' Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It’s a government of and by and for the people.”
Reporter Ben Shapiro observed, “In [Obama’s] odd vision, Germany, Italy, and Spain remained liberal democracies throughout the twentieth century, World War II never happened, and Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey are all thriving centers of freedom.”
It’s difficult to say whether or not Americans would truly be able to use guns to defend themselves against tyrannical US politicians and martial law, but it is nonetheless true that democratically elected governments are not necessarily just.
Obama’s somewhat odd word choice, saying that he is “constrained” by the Constitution, gives gun rights advocates pause. Shapiro added, “The natural inference seems to be that if it were not for the Constitution, Obama would indeed pursue a federal gun seizure.”
Of course, in the most literal sense, Obama did not misspeak. The Constitution details what the government can’t do, not what citizens can do. It is an inherently constraining document that prevents politicians from overstepping their bounds.
Based on these gun rights advocates' disapproval of Obama, the problem isn’t so much that Obama supports gun control – most people know that already – it’s that Obama would apparently leap at the chance to pass restrictive gun control laws despite his own admission that the Constitution prohibits it.
Gun rights advocates certainly don’t agree with Obama’s gun control stance and his apparent distaste for the Second Amendment, but gun rights advocates have to give him this much: at least he’s being honest.
Gun hater Piers Morgan traveled to Houston, Texas to find out how it feels to shoot the gun “used in the last five mass shootings in America”.
Morgan interviewed the owner of a Houston gun range, where he was instructed how to fire an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with a 30-round magazine.
The CNN hosts aim wasn’t perfect, but Morgan said, “Once I got the hang of it and began pressing the trigger faster and faster, it was just firing very, very fast.”
Piers Morgan also sat down with rocker and gun enthusiast Ted Nugent to discuss possible gun control.
Nugent asked to see Piers Morgan’s “machine gun smile”.
Piers said he can’t deny that shooting the guns wasn’t an “exciting experience” and said the people of Texas were “lovely people”.
Morgan asked Nugent to explain why Americans need the AR-15 assault rifle. Nugent said there are millions of Americans who own guns and have “never caused a problem, never had an accident and will never commit a crime”.
Piers brought up suicides by guns, prompting Nugent to ask, “Do you care about murders? Or do you only care about about murders with guns?”
Morgan answered, “I care about all death.”
“I don’t think you do,” Nugent replied. “I think you care about guns. You’re obsessed with guns.”
Nugent blasted President Barack Obama’s proposals on gun control, saying he doesn’t agree with the president on any of his gun control plans.
He also said he didn’t agree with universal background checks and stated that more guns actually mean less violence. He counted off several places with the strictest gun laws and horribly high violent crime rates, including Chicago and Mexico.