by Jeremy Leaming
Under increasingly outrageous attacks from the National Rifle Association, President Obama announced what The Huffington Post describes as “the most sweeping effort at gun control policy reform in a generation.”
The president called for expanded background checks to include those obtaining guns from private sellers and gun shows, a ban on military-style assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets and a limit on high-capacity ammunition magazines. He also vowed to use executive orders to help stem gun violence.
“In the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,” Obama said. “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.” (The White House’s website includes more information about the proposals; click on picture for video of president’s remarks.)
The administration’s proposals follow New York’s enactment of some of the nation’s toughest measures to curb gun violence. Among other actions, the NY SAFE Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, bans assault weapons and magazines that can hold more than seven rounds and requires instant background checks on all ammunition purchases.
As noted here, and by The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, it is not only the NRA that is ratcheting up its attacks on efforts to curb gun violence. Extremists have jumped into the fray threatening violence over efforts to enact new gun control laws. As Blow wrote, they are employing incendiary language to stir up fear that the government is on the verge of trashing the Second Amendment and confiscating guns. He cites several examples, such as Fox News analyst Andrew P. Napolitano, who claimed that the Second Amendment was created to “protect your right to shoot tyrants if they take over the government.”
Regardless of what extremists think of the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court has recognized an indiviudal right to own guns, but not it is not an unlimited right. Constitutional law expert Geoffrey Stone pointed out recently in a piece for The Huffington Post, that the Supreme Court majority in D.C. v. Heller, stated “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” and went on to note a string of common sense gun regulations that does not run afoul of the Second Amendment.
Obama’s announcement was cheered by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that advocates for “sensible federal and state gun laws, regulations, and public policies ….” The group’s president, Dan Gross, said in a press statement that it would “work with the Administration over the coming days to give voice to the American public who so strongly support common sense legislative policies that can immediately prevent gun violence, such as universal background checks.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in discussing some the committee’s agenda for the 113th Congress at Georgetown University Law Center, noted that in a couple of weeks the committee would “begin examining possible remedies for tragedies like last month’s shootings in Newtown.”
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a press statement that it was “Congress’s responsibility to work with the President to move forward” on the proposed policies, such as such as supporting the universal background check and the new “ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines ….”
As noted by The New York Times, White House officials have acknowledged the uphill battle of getting the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines through the Republican-controlled House, but also believe “that the dynamic around guns may be shifting, and that the president has a window of opportunity that he cannot pass up.”