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Conflict & Tragedy

Obama may move on gun control issue without Congress; NRA promises fight

Amid calls for new, more restrictive gun legislation, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has promised to fight any new attempts to regulate the sale and ownership of firearms.

In what has been described by the NRA as "a real threat to the Second Amendment," the association says it will oppose any new laws that threaten the rights of lawful gun owners.

"I think that's a real threat to their Second Amendment rights, and we intend to do all we can to protect them," NRA president David Keene said.

While the NRA is gearing up to bring its considerable pressure to bear, Vice President Joe Biden is continuing his directive to put together recommendations on proposed regulations. Biden is conducting meetings with experts and other individuals from many different sectors in America, from representatives of the NRA and law enforcement to victims of gun violence and the video game industry.

The hope is that by conducting these investigations a workable plan can be developed that will be tenable to those on both sides of the issue. Some of the proposed recommendations have been universal background checks that would extend to the private sale of firearms, revamping mental health policy, restrictions on high-capacity magazines and possibly re-instituting the assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004.

Biden is set to deliver his three recommendations for new gun regulations on Tuesday. However, the NRA has stated that it will bring the fight to Capitol Hill if any restrictive proposals are made. The NRA is the largest and most powerful gun lobby in Washington, boasting an estimated 4 million members.

The vice president has suggested that the president may be able to make changes to current policy through the use of executive orders in the event no agreement can be reached in Congress.

Analysis:

It appears that a critical point has already been reached on the issue of US gun control. The Obama administration appears to be working at reaching a compromise that will be acceptable to all parties. However, since the NRA has said that it will use its considerable resources to block new legislation concerning firearms, there is a strong chance that no agreement will be reached if any bill is proposed to Congress.

This brings up some serious legal and ethical questions: In the event that the NRA manages to make good its threat to block new gun regulations, should Obama utilize the controversial executive order system to make an end-run around Congress? If the decision is made by the president to act alone on the issue, based on constitutional law, would this be legal? The Second Amendment is fairly clear that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon. Would Obama acting without congressional consent constitute infringement by the administrative branch?

Finally, would it be the right thing to do ethically? The American government was set up in a way where in theory, no one branch can have more power than the other. There is an elaborate set of checks and balances in place to ensure this. This is essentially to prevent the institution of a dictatorship. Would the institution of an executive order on this issue by Obama be tantamount to exercising dictatorial powers in the event new regulations are blocked?

Opinion:

The issue of gun control has quickly become an area of strong political and social contention this time around. Even as politicians and lobbyists are mobilizing to fight, gun opponents and gun advocates are arraying to do battle as well.

There is no argument that four million people is a very impressive number, but in the big scheme of things when you compare this to the total number of Americans it isn't that many at all. How can the NRA presume to represent the American people? When you strip away all the rhetoric, propaganda and the loud noise it makes, the NRA is nothing more than another special interest group. However, part of its power lies in the noble cause it claims to represent—the preservation of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America. Just take a moment to look back at those italicized words. Very impressive, are they not?

Those words would look right at home among the rest of the words contained within some of our country's most treasured documents. But what do they really mean? Those words could also just as easily read, "... for the preservation of our income from the generous support of American citizens and the firearms industry." If there is anyone out there that does not believe that the NRA receives support from the firearms industry, I have some beachfront property to sell you—on the moon!

On the other hand, we have a governing body that isn't even capable of balancing the staggering budget we have here in America, yet there are those who advocate trusting it with tinkering around with part of this nation's most sacred canon; one that is the very bedrock and foundation of our country. It appears that what we have here, in the parlance of the zero-sum game of chess, is a stalemate. This would appear to be the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immovable object. But is it?

If neither side can be trusted to decide upon the fate of guns in America, then why not allow the people to decide on this one? There are an estimated 150 million registered voters in this country and the NRA only represents a small portion of them. Why not exercise democracy in its true and intended form? Why let the voice of 4 million decide the fate of 296 million? Let's find out how Americans really feel about this issue. To hell with the one-sided polls and the slipshod research that can arrive at any conclusion based of whoever plunks down the biggest wad of cash.

Forget the biased media that will posit the opinions of whoever is signing the checks. Why not exercise that right to vote on something meaningful like this? After all, this is an issue that will affect every American citizen in some fashion. So why not let Biden and company draw up their recommendations and then let Americans vote on it? Why should we trust something so important in the hands of inept politicians who could simply be concerned with lining their own pockets? Why trust it with an administration that might be setting us all up for failure?

Of course I'm sure there will be those who are going to say a vote can be fixed to go one way or another. I'm sure cost will come up as well as a myriad of other reasons but what is the cost of human life? What is the cost of our public safety? And above all, what is the cost of protecting our most prized and valued treasures? Our children.

So will a national vote end gun violence? Not likely, but at least Americans will have a standard by which to measure the amount of punishment to mete out to those found in violation of any new laws. If the majority of American citizens show support for no new legislation, then all should be left as-is. Conversely, if the majority supports getting rid of these high-capacity killing machines, then there will be no Second Amendment dispute when someone is found to be in possession of these weapons if they are banned because the people have decided on the law.

For those allowed to keep assault-style weapons, it should be their responsibility to not only comply with proper registration, it should also be their responsibility to safeguard their weapons from theft and follow proper procedure when the weapons change hands. There should be sanctions for those who allow the theft of their registered firearms by failure to properly secure them and also for those who don't report the theft to avoid said penalties, in the event that their weapon is eventually used in the commission of a crime. Maybe even maintaining some type of high-capacity weapon liability insurance similar to automobile liability policies may even be in order.

Stiffer penalties for those in illegal possession of firearms and also for manufacturers and retailers that violate production and sale regulations would be a step in the right direction.

There is truly no quick fix to the mess we've created here and there will probably never be a complete solution but responsible ownership and accountability on the part of manufacturers and retailers will help.

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