Few issues spark as much emotion in Americans as guns. The second amendment of the U. S. Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, states “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Many Americans react strongly to any attempt to chip away at this right. The right to purchase legally and maintain a handgun is one thing. The question is in this day and age is should that right extend to assualt weapons, automatic, semi-automatic, and similar destuctive weapons that can be and have been used by criminals to kill large numbers of innocent people. I seriously doubt the Founding Fathers anticipated the advent of these types of weapons much less how they would be used by criminals.
Currently, there are approximately 300 million firearms owned by civilians in the U. S. That is an astronimical number when you consider that the total population is only 307 million people, including children! Furthermore, of the murders committed in the U. S. in 2010, 67% were committed with handguns. That would strongly indicate that guns contribute to violent crime. In addition, periodically we suffer through a heinous event like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Newtown. There is a hue and cry and much handwringing. The left wants to enact stiffer gun control laws, including a ban on certain types of weapons; the NRA and conservatives cite the right to bear arms and treat any action as an enfringement of the second amendment. In the end, the outrage fades away, people focus on other issues and nothing gets done.
Will this time be any different? No one knows, but the Obama administration seems committed to taking strong action. Biden’s study group is recommending, among other things, a ban on assault weapons, mandatory background checks, restrictions on gun shows, a national database of firearms and mental health programs designed to curtail mentally challenged people from acquiring guns. I don’t think any objective person would object to a ban on assault weapons. The others could have unintended consequences and could be difficult and costly to administer. The NRA and conservatives would likely resist some or all of these proposals and offer proposals of their own. (One such proposal they have put forth is the use of armed security guards in schools.)
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Reaching a consensus will be difficult, but this is an issue that needs to be resolved. All parties must work hard to find common ground. Each side must realize that it will not get everyhthing it wants and settle for what it can get. Sounds easy and obvious, right? But, our government has not been able to operate this way in some time. One danger I foresee is that if O cannot get Congress to pass the bill he wants he may issue an Executive Order to accomplish the same thing. Given the history of this issue and the emotions it evokes, I think this is a strong, if not likely, possibility.
Presidents issue EOs all the time, but O has issued more than 1,000 EOs during his tenure as President, much more than any other previous president. Moreover, although some have dealt with routine issues, such as student loans, others have dealt with serious, controversial issues, such as immigration and abortion. Legal experts are divided over the constitutionality of some of them. In my opinion, an EO on this issue would be unwarranted and unwise. O would be viewed by most people as circumventing Congress and overreaching his authority. It would be very controversial, and its constitutionality would likely be challenged in the courts.