Coffee House

Briefing: Obama and gun control

16 January 2013

6:43 PM

16 January 2013

6:43 PM

‘We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town from the grief that has visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.’ Barack Obama, 16 December 2012

Well, one month and 900 more gun deaths after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 20 children and six teachers were murdered, President Obama has set out the steps he intends to take to tackle gun violence in America. Of course, getting his proposed new laws through Congress — and particularly the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — will be tough. Here’s a breakdown of the main proposals:

More, better background checks

Obama wants legislation passed that requires background checks for all gun sales. At the moment, private sales are exempt, and these make up an estimated 40 per cent of all gun sales. But the President will allow ‘limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers among family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes’. This legislation should be able to find enough support to pass both houses of Congress. Obama will also use executive actions to improve the effectiveness of background checks, largely by increasing the amount of information going into the system. A new poll from the Pew Research Center found 85 per cent of Americans support extending background checks to private sales and gun shows.

Banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

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A Federal Assault Weapons Ban was enacted in 1994, banning many semi-automatic firearms, as well as high-capacity magazines that hold more than ten rounds. It expired in 2004 and was not renewed, but Obama wants Congress to renew it now. The Pew poll found 58 per cent supporting a ban on semi-automatic weapons, 55 per cent for a ban on assault-style weapons and 54 per cent for a ban on high-capacity magazines. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is in fact introducing such a ban in the Senate, but many Democrats have warned that it’s unlikely to pass the House. Obama also wants legislation banning the possession and transfer of armour-piercing bullets, and new gun trafficking laws.

Research the causes of gun violence

At the President’s direction, the Centers for Disease Control will begin research into the ‘the causes and prevention of gun violence’, and Obama has asked Congress to give them $10 million towards it. The research will include ‘investigating the relationship between video games, media images, and violence’. A new Washington Post-ABC poll found that 38 per cent of Americans believe that ‘violence in TV programs, movies and video games’ contributes to gun violence ‘a great deal’ and another 34 per cent think it contributes ‘somewhat’. And according to a new AP-GfK poll, 54 per cent support limiting it. Whether they’re right or wrong, as Obama said, ‘we don’t benefit from ignorance’.

Improving school safety

Obama will introduce incentives for more police departments to hire more ‘school resource officers’ (police officers assigned to schools), and also wants to increase the number of mental health professionals in schools. His administration will also help schools and similar buildings develop a ‘comprehensive emergency management plan’, as well as strategies to reduce bullying and other ‘problem behaviour’.

Focusing on mental health 

‘We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun’, the President said in December. The plans announced today include ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training, training more social workers, counsellors and psychologists, and ensuring that those Americans who now have health coverage thanks to Obama’s Affordable Care Act are covered for mental healthcare. The Washington Post poll found that 56 per cent of Americans think that inadequate mental health treatment contributes to gun violence ‘a great deal’, and a further 30 per cent say ‘somewhat’.

It’s going to be a lot of work for Obama to get Congress to agree to what amounts to the biggest stride forward in gun control since the Gun Control Act was passed in 1968 in the aftermath of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. In particular, the assault weapons ban may prove the biggest stumbling block in his negotiations with the GOP. But the Washington Post poll found that Obama has the greater stock of political capital: his approval rating is at 55 per cent, compared to 24 per cent for Congressional Republicans. And 67 per cent think Republican leaders should do more to compromise with Obama, whereas just 48 per cent think Obama should do more to compromise with them. But Obama will be expending that capital on three fronts in the coming weeks: getting Chuck Hagel confirmed as Defense Secretary, raising the debt ceiling and now improving gun control.

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Show comments
  • JabbaTheCat

    Yawn…will all quite rightly get kicked out by the Supreme Court…

    • the viceroy’s gin

      I doubt much is going to happen here, other than jawjacking.

      Obama has to do that jawjacking, of course. His more fervent supporters demand such.

      But he has no statutory authority to do anything significant, and anybody who votes to give it to him risks losing their seat in Congress, unless they represent a lefty district. You can get the political lay of the land here in observing that the venus flytrap campaign shysters are out in force, hoping to lure a few unwitting Congress members to cast an affirmative vote for something stupid, at which point they’ll have a hatchet buried between their shoulder blades come election time.

      The key for Obama is to do nothing, while making out that he’s doing something. That keeps the lefties on side, as he can’t afford to have them getting dispirited and abandoning him, as typically happens in a president’s second term.

  • BenM_Kent

    No ordinary citizen ever needs a gun.

    Ok, have one (tightly locked down and kept secure) to take pot shots at targets in clubs.

    But not for keeping about the person or the house.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Pretty stupid comment. If you were alone with your family in a remote house at night with a gang of knife armed thugs downstairs intent on robbery, rape and murder with the telephone line cut you might re-think “ever”.

      Unlikely situation you might say. Then so are gun rampages. They both happen, the former more often than the latter.

  • Austin Barry

    Would the London riots have been so nasty, or have even happened, had the looters, arsonists and gangstas believed that shopkeepers and homeowners may be tooled-up with legal weapons?

    As the politicians have, by nutty immigration, replicated the social structures of inner city America it may be time to free up our gun laws a tad, but not without background checks and a ban on assault weapons: a simple handgun should be enough to earn the ‘respect’ demanded by the Morlocks.

    • HooksLaw

      Thats right, they do not get riots in America. Certainly not nasty ones.
      Irrespective of that what need is there for automatic weapons?
      I can only think of one…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFNBUs7O-h4

    • the viceroy’s gin

      In 1992, during the Los Angeles riots, the Korean shopkeepers and business owners in Koreatown broadcast a call out to the Korean community, in Korean, and that community responded and came out to defend those businesses.

      They were armed.

      Armed, with semi automatic firearms and high capacity magazines.

      53 people died in the killing, smashing, burning and destruction during those riots.

      2-3,000 were wounded.

      Thousands of business were burned out.

      Hundreds of millions of property destroyed.

      The Koreans foresaw all this, and responded appropriately. Find the videos on YouTube. In one of them, a shopkeeper and his manager are returning fire, after his wife and sister were shot at the store. The cops ran away at the first shot. These men didn’t.

      They knew they are the only guarantors of their own and their family’s safety. They armed themselves to the task.

      Their property was saved, much of it. Their lives were perhaps saved as well.

      I’d like to see the do-gooders go tell the Koreans and those from that culture that they need to be disarmed. Go ahead… make their day.

  • telemachus

    Could New York state’s new gun law backfire when it comes to people with a mental illness? Some experts think so.

    The law would require therapists, doctors, nurses and social workers to tell government authorities if they believe a patient is likely to harm himself or others. That could lead to revoking the patient’s gun permit and seizing any guns, the Associated Press says.

    It could also lead people who most need help not to seek it or get it.

    “The people who arguably most need to be in treatment and most need to feel free to talk about these disturbing impulses, may be the ones we make least likely to do so,” said the director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia. “They will either simply not come, or not report the thoughts that they have.”
    We know this is likely true based on stringent government monitoring of another area: aviation.

    As I noted on The Current last week, the government is very strict with the medical backgrounds of people who fly. Any possible health problem — mental or physical — can mean the loss of flying privileges.

    There’s an argument to be made that the nation’s aviation system is among the world’s safest because of this. There’s also an argument to be made that it has made it more likely that someone with a mental or physical problem will fly an airplane.

    This is especially true in areas of mental health. Many pilots don’t seek help or therapy because they’d be required to report it during their next FAA medical exam. But because they don’t want to lose flying privileges, they simply do without it.

    At least where guns are concerned, the ramifications are obvious.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I doubt it will affect you.

  • Curnonsky

    Nothing Obama is doing would have had the slightest effect on the Newtown killings, nor the gang gun violence that plagues American cities. It is merely a cynical move to roll back the rights of law-abiding Americans and swell the power of the State. Obama has one goal for his subjects: total dependency on Big Brother. And this set-piece surrounded by children, right out of the Kim Jong-Il playbook.

  • HooksLaw

    Once again we see Coffeehouse attracting the nutjobs – ‘opportunistic socialists grab more freedoms’.
    This in the face of tiny children being mowed down by a hosepipe of bullets.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Which none of this BS will stop.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      You were there were you ? Did you see those tiny children in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan ? Do you watch Drone Videos ?

      • HooksLaw

        Huh? Do I need to be there? Are you saying these kids were not killed by automatic weapons? None of this has got anything to do with Afghanistan.

        I seem to remember we carpet bombed German cities … am I ashamed? No. Are you saying this would justify the free and legal sale of automatic rifles in Britain?

        Thanks for exposing the total banality of what passes for your logic

        • coffeehousewall.co.uk

          They weren’t killed by guns they were killed by a man. He could have driven a lorry into the school at speed and killed even more. It is people who murder not things.

          Are you suggesting that he would have killed less had he not had a semi-automatic? What evidence do you have and how would that have been a comfort to the parents of those children he could and would have still killed.

          Automatic weapons are not legal in the US. So your argument is bogus

  • call me dave

    Gun crime in USA is mostly blacks shooting mostly blacks. Check the FBI crime stats those that “can’t believe” this.

    • Daniel Maris

      That’s OK then…no such thing as an innocent Black. (Irony, in case you are American or very, very thick).

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        Yes ALL Blacks are “innocent” when they engage in gun battles or become President. They are clearly “incompetent” and not responsible for their actions. They need White Guardians to supervise them – like you Daniel ! Why ever were they allowed to think they were equal ?

  • Colonel Mustard

    All sounds very good. Won’t make a blind bit of difference. Something must be done cherubs and knee-jerk wazzocks placated. Law abiding but armed citizens interfered with and inconvenienced. Rights nibbled away a bit more. The Big State gains a bit more ground and sets some ground rules for more and further interference to be continued idc. More red tape. More bureaucrats. More sanctimony.

    Nutters and criminals carry on as usual; laws, lectures and regulations meaning nothing to them anyway.

    • d knight

      Only the State and criminals must have access to weapons – we can’t have ordinary citizens armed can we?

      • Daniel Maris

        The US is entitled to decide it’s own gun laws. But you can’t against 15,000 homicides in the USA and less than a hundred in the UK. 15,000 repesents a lot of human misery.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          300 million Americans with borders open to Narco-State Mexico and huge concentration of Blacks and Hispanics accounts for most of this. Britain simply mass-medicates with Prozac and Fluoride

          • HooksLaw
            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

              it was when I lived in Texas – the Rio Grande seems to be no impediment

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Pretty much the US border is open, yes. It’s estimated that there are at minimum 12M illegal aliens in the US, most of whom crossed over the Mexican border.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Bogus comparison. You have to take into account the size of population and average number of firearms held within that population.

          The comparative figures are 0.0012 gun related deaths per firearm in the UK and 0.0033 gun related deaths per firearm in the USA.

          The statistics include gun related deaths where the fatalities are criminals and/or the shooters law enforcement officials.

          Given the disparity in size between the populations and number of firearms held the UK figure is quite shocking. I think it clearly shows that handguns should be banned . . . oh, they were. As usual legislative control has no effect whatsoever on the actions of criminals. It is purely a false reassurance.

  • call me dave

    Nauseating photo-op; all that was missing was a crippled Tiny Tim croaking “Please Mr President stop the guns!”
    Sob, Sob, Sob.

    • David Barnett

      A bit of a gimmick, maybe, but in view of the numbers of innocent children who have been killed over the years in these rampage shootings, not out of place.

      • Daniel Maris

        Quite. It’s for them to decide but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about reminding the public about what’s at stake here.

        • Colonel Mustard

          What is at stake is what has been at stake for 300 odd years. Liberty with all its dangers and freedom from an over-mighty state that thinks the tide can be stopped from coming in.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Actually, the numbers of innocent children killed in rampage shootings are statistically insignificant.

        It’s the adults killed in regular every day shootings that come in significant numbers.

  • Roy

    The smokescreens continue with the opportunistic actions of the ruling socialists to grab more freedoms from the peoples hard won historic foundations.

    • telemachus

      Why always turn on the reasonable?

      Could New York state’s new gun law backfire when it comes to people with a mental illness? Some experts think so.

      The law would require therapists, doctors, nurses and social workers to tell government authorities if they believe a patient is likely to harm himself or others. That could lead to revoking the patient’s gun permit and seizing any guns, the Associated Press says.

      It could also lead people who most need help not to seek it or get it.

      “The people who arguably most need to be in treatment and most need to feel free to talk about these disturbing impulses, may be the ones we make least likely to do so,” said the director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia. “They will either simply not come, or not report the thoughts that they have.”
      We know this is likely true based on stringent government monitoring of another area: aviation.

      As I noted on The Current last week, the government is very strict with the medical backgrounds of people who fly. Any possible health problem — mental or physical — can mean the loss of flying privileges.

      There’s an argument to be made that the nation’s aviation system is among the world’s safest because of this. There’s also an argument to be made that it has made it more likely that someone with a mental or physical problem will fly an airplane.

      This is especially true in areas of mental health. Many pilots don’t seek help or therapy because they’d be required to report it during their next FAA medical exam. But because they don’t want to lose flying privileges, they simply do without it.

      At least where guns are concerned, the ramifications are obvious.

      • Colonel Mustard

        I’m loathe to engage with a troll who uses a tagging technique for his comments rather than posting his own but this ‘reasonable’ of yours merely equates to socialism’s tendency to see all answers in terms of more control.

        Like all socialists you conflate political opinion with moral certitude – effectively making your ideology faith-based – a religion. The intransigence and intolerance you then display towards others who hold different opinions or who dissent turns you into religious zealots – fanatics. That couldn’t be further from reasonable.

        Instead of persuading by results based evidence you ignore the reality of consequences and just keep endlessly plugging the “faith”, dealing with any dissent by demonisation and abuse.

        Dangerous stuff because all of you lack any self awareness.

        • Roy

          Thankyou, you’ve put it well.

        • telemachus

          Only faith can confront revanchists

          • Colonel Mustard

            Thereby confirming the diagnosis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

    When will Obama own up to having supplied heavy duty weapons to Mexican Drug Cartels in Operation Fast & Furious ? Operation Fast and Furious began supplying guns to Mexican drug gangs in October, 2009…. the Obama administration was ordering gun dealers to sell guns to individuals the dealers feared were criminals. Despite desperate warnings from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (BATF) agents, the guns were not traced. To top it off, Mexican officials were never informed.

    Holder has testified that about 800 weapons – mostly AK-47s and high-powered handguns – had been recovered from “Fast and Furious.” An estimated 1,200 guns from the program are still unaccounted for.

    Last month the Justice Department Inspector General released a 450-page report
    documenting shortcomings of the gun-walking program and administration
    oversight of it since its initiation in October 2009.

    • HooksLaw

      The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran a series of “gunwalking” or sting operations between 2006 and 2011. (says wiki)
      So these sting operations began under Bush, and he was no more directly responsible than Obama.
      The issue is of course gun smuggling and how to stop it.

      The issue of gun control in the USA is about the justification for the sale of automatic weapons. It seems to me there is none.

      • Curnonsky

        “Fast and Furious” was the program that wound up placing weapons in the hands of Mexican narco-criminals, some of which were used to kill Americans, and it was approved at the highest levels of the Obama Justice Dept. Not Bush, but nice try to invoke the all-purpose “Bush Did It” slogan.

        And automatic weapons have been illegal in the United States for years and years.

        • HooksLaw

          The automatic weapon (brought in I think after Reagan was shot by one) ban expired a while ago.
          The operation was a ‘sting’ designed to catch gun runners. it was not for instance some type of ‘Contra’ type deal.fast and Furious was just the latest sting amongst others started under the Bush administration. I was and still am quite a fan of Bush. I hope brother JEB runs in 2014.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            how was it a sting when they failed to track the guns ?

          • Curnonsky

            You are thinking of the “assault weapon” ban, which expired with no measurable impact on gun violence. An automatic weapon keeps firing as long as the trigger is squeezed and is illegal in the US; a semi-automatic requires a squeeze for each shot. They are legal.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            No, the automatic weapon “ban” has not expired.

            Fast and Furious was not a sting. No arrests were made. It was an open ended arms transfer from the US government to criminals.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        The AG is Eric Holder – Obama appointed him – he prosecutes neither in this case nor Bankers

        • HooksLaw

          These stings began under the Bush administration. I am not a fan of Obama, however I think the more important criticism he faces is appointing Kerry, not trying to ban the sale of automatic weapons.

          As ever you cannot see beyond the end of your nose.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Automatic weapons cannot be sold in the US.

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