Gun control revisited

By on November 14, 2002

With the terrifying wake of the sniper attacks still resonating, and a crucial Congressional election looming, it is time to revisit the seemingly dormant issue of gun control.
McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform is on the horizon, and barring legal challenges will be the norm for all future campaigns.
But for now, the National Rifle Association remains the most powerful interest group in America, using its vast financial resources to lobby against any and all restrictions on gun ownership and proliferation.
The NRA cloaks itself under the right to bear arms provision of the second amendment, but the Constitution was composed as a working, active document, and it must be adjusted as time and circumstance dictate.
We live in an era in which weapons production and criminality outpace law enforcement; the government can only adequately protect its citizenry by restricting the number and monitoring the types of weapons that make it out onto the streets. Discourse must be constant and unimpeded by political spin. The specious reasoning that has helped to perpetuate gun violence must be attacked.
Perhaps the most puzzling NRA position is its opposition to a centralized, national system of gun registration. It is true that many guns used in violent crime are obtained illegally, but a national system of registration would instantly indicate where guns were first sold.
Excluding international gun-runners and private manufacturers, all weapons are originally purchased legally. If every gun were on file with the government, people may think twice before recklessly discharging firearms, and law enforcement would have a much greater opportunity of preventing multiple instances of violence perpetrated by the same gun – the tracking process would quicken exponentially.
The NRA says itself that criminals should not possess firearms, so why does it object to centralized registration? The basic argument is one against government intrtusion, i.e. – why should law-abiding citizens have to register with the government for exercising an endowed right? But the responsibility of the government to protect its people supercedes this concern. Guns are agents of deadly force and must be regulated to ensure security.
National registration would also serve to fine tune the paltry and relatively meaningless background check laws that currently exist.
In most states, the NRA has successfully lobbied to eliminate the Brady Law, which calls for a mandatory five day waiting period when purchasing guns. Why? This is outrageous at its best and criminal at its worst.
The notion that people need guns immediately is ridiculous. Wouldn’t a five day waiting period allow for thorough, comprehensive background checks and prevent crimes of passion? Throughout life, everyone is besieged by momentary fits of rage, and while the subject of that rage may still remain five days after it began, murderous tendencies would for the most part, surely, subside.
The proposed NRA substitute – instant, computer-based background checks – is a joke. Instant checks only indicate whether or not the would-be owner is a convicted felon; they do not examine one’s mental state or circumstance. All felons have to start somewhere – is a first murder not as final as a second or third?
Restrictions making it illegal for people to purchase more than one gun per month have been vehemently opposed by the NRA as an impingement on personal freedom, but the second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, it does not allow for the building of arsenals.
There are viable gun collectors, but in the public interest, it is fair to assume that most people purchasing multiple firearms in short periods of time are doing it for the purpose or illegal re-sale.
The biggest myth of gun ownership is that it provides ordinary people with a means of self-defense. This ignores one very important psychological principle – it is very difficult for a layperson to decisively use a firearm.
If one presents a gun and hesitates, it is more than likely that a criminal will become defensive and resort to violence even if not originally intended. A criminal will not hesitate; he will just react.
The gun control debate is emblematic of the vital importance and scope of meaningful campaign finance reform. The NRA is the foremost contributor to the Republican party and its national candidates; its influence prevents conservative lawmakers from supporting common sense gun measures and securing American neighborhoods, both urban and suburban.
Monetary power holds legislation hostage, as finance dictates exposure in modern politics, and exposure is what gets candidates elected.
The NRA deserves its voice, but that voice should be expressed ideologically, through editorials and public oration, not by money.


About Joe Reynolds