There’s thought among certain conservative circles – it lurks in the feverish swamps of chain emails alongside the notion of barack Obama’s secret Muslim identity and the upcoming court decision to turn America over to sharia law – that President Obama is just waiting until his second term, when he no longer has to worry about re-election, to spring his extreme anti-gun agenda on the country.
This is not so secretly encouraged by the leaders of the National Rifle Association, who have released documents with subtle titles such as, “Obama’s Secret Plan to Destroy the Second Amendment by 2016.”
If last night’s debate told us anything, it’s that gun owners don’t have to worry; Obama isn’t going to do anything to stem the rising tide of violence the NRA has done so much to promote.
- An August poll conducted by CNN found 57 percent of respondents support a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons.
- In June 2011, 62 percent of respondents to a Time magazine poll said they supported a federal ban on assault weapons.
- A January 2011 New York Times/CBS found that 54 percent of gun-owning households support an assault-weapons ban.
So banning assault weapons – semiautomatic weapons used by the military and law enforcement with little to no practical use except to mow down people as quickly as possible – is broadly popular, even among gun owners, who presumably value the 2nd Amendment.
Further, assault weapons and other items, such as extended clips for handguns, are frequently used in mass shootings, such as the ones in Tucson, Ariz., and Aurora, Colo. Perhaps the shooters would have found some way to acquire them anyway, but it would certainly have been harder, taken longer and cost more money – and those barriers would undoubtedly turn some potential shooters away from using them.
So banning semiautomatic assault weapons and similar accessories is not only broadly popular, but also it is likely to save lives. No brainer, right? Apparently not. Here are the presidential candidates’ responses last night to an unexpected question about gun control in the wake of the series of mass shootings we have seen in recent years:
[M]y belief is that A., we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement. …
[W]hat I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence, because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence, and they’re not using AK-47s, they’re using cheap handguns. …
And so what I want is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.
That’s pretty weak sauce from President Obama, but it’s downright authoritarian compared to Romney’s response:
I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We of course don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.
There you go. First, Romney is incorrect – fully automatic weapons are in fact legal to own in the United States, though their purchase is tightly regulated.
But the bigger problem is the ground on which this discussion is taking place. Romney refuses to even discuss new legislation banning assault weapons, and Obama pays it the briefest of lip service – even though such legislation is popular and would save lives. (Of course, if he were really planning to secretly ban all guns by 2016, that’s exactly what you’d expect he’d do!!!!111!!1)
Some of this is because our society remains ensnared in a culture of violence and bloodsport that idolizes rather than condemns the machinery that makes such violence possible. But in this particular case, where a majority of our society actually supports stricter controls on this sort of weaponry, the blame can be laid at the feet of the NRA.
The NRA takes credit for both the Republican revolution of 1994 and Al Gore’s narrow defeat in 2000. Democrats have apparently bought into this idea, which is why they refuse to publicly support even popular, life-saving legislation such as a renewal of the assault weapons ban in place from 1994-2004. Gun control apparently has become politically toxic.
Often when I discuss politics on here, I cast it in terms of morality and compassion. What does a moral, compassionate society look like, and how do we as Christians work to achieve that? I firmly believe one way is quit supporting organizations whose positions are morally repugnant and uncompassionate. The NRA is one such organization. Their work to neuter the debate about sensible gun-control laws in our society has led to the deaths of hundreds of people at the hands of killers holding easily obtainable assault weapons.
My question is: Why are so many Christians OK with that?