I tip my hat to Barak Obama. I had thought his audacious healthcare plan would be the bravest thing he did whilst in office. Despite being prevalent in other parts of the Western world, his idea that all Americans should have access to a minimum standard of free healthcare faced incredible opposition, both politically and legally, but he persisted with it. While it wasn’t the only move he made that was unpopular with the political right, no doubt he burnt some political capital there, which might be one reason he waited until well into his second term to make his most recent action which has blown people away (not hating that pun either).
Having railed against the politically powerful NRA and republican inaction over gun laws, for some time, this week Obama took action into his own hands and laid out executive action on gun control. Now I can’t imagine many Australians (other than senator Leyonhelm) would have much objection to the basic measures being enacted. They are incredibly modest and focus on greater background checks being required for buyers and stricter licencing laws for vendors. They also include funding for increased resourcing of the FBI and ATF to both expedite background checks and police gun crimes (here is a link to a full outline of these executive actions). The final measure, which may seem aspirational at this stage, is pushing congress to invest in gun safety technology, but if this is enacted and has success, could have the greatest impact in reducing gun deaths. There is nothing in any of these that will restrict responsible, mentally stable gun owners owning the firearm of their choice, so one might have thought these changes would not be too controversial.
But in America, despite the fact that 30 000 people are killed in gun violence each year, the NRA and Republicans have predictably come out swinging, even going so far as producing sinister protest ads that place bullets next to pictures of lawmakers. Sadly, somehow the NRA is tremendously influential in American politics, mainly due to their financial power (democracy for sale?), which is why politicians have been so reticent to draw their ire. No doubt there will be some legal challenges mounted. And this is what makes Obama’s actions so unusual, although perhaps he is less worried about political fallout as it’s his second term so he can’t be re-elected anyway.
If it isn’t obvious, I am an advocate for tight gun control. I wouldn’t object if Australian laws had to be further tightened. While I do feel some sympathy for the responsible hunters and collectors (not the band- I don’t think they need my sympathy), the reality is not everyone is responsible and the public needs to be protected from those who aren’t- just like we have road rules and don't rely on everyone being a responsible car-owner. There has not been a US-style mass shooting (the fact that the term US-style mass shooting needs no explanation just about makes my argument for me) in Australia since Port Arthur.
I don’t want to turn this into a longer essay on the merits of greater gun control, but for those who haven’t seen it, Jim Jefferies sums up the debate pretty well here. I should warn you though, please don’t watch if you are offended by swearing.