Friday, January 08, 2016

Obama executive order a sensible first step

Earlier this week, when President Barack Obama announced his executive order requiring more background checks on gun purchases, the responses were pretty typical. Democrats loved it. Republicans hated it.

We ran a pair of stories here on ENP stating just that. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Gov. Andrew Cuomo came out in support of the initiative. Congressman Chris Collins and Sen. Rob Ortt released statements of their own opposing the plan.

Interestingly, most of the Facebook comments on the Gillibrand/Cuomo story came from people who disagreed with the Democrats' take, calling them "idiots." One person added, "Common sense tells us that the underlying cause of these mass shootings is 'gun free zones.'" Likewise, most of the comments on the story about Collins and Ortt, disagreed with them, calling them "out of touch." Maybe it's easier to be contrarian. I'm not sure.

Away from ENP, but still on Facebook, the topic is a hot-button issue, no doubt. I don't usually engage in political debate on Facebook but did so twice in the past few days on this very issue. Because, frankly, it's one I feel strongly about.

Thursday night, the president had a televised town hall on the topic, explaining his point of view and taking questions from the audience. The National Rifle Association was invited to discuss the topic at the event, but turned it down, instead choosing to tweet rebuttals to the president's statements with no fear of being asked difficult questions from President Obama or CNN moderator Anderson Cooper.

If you've read my column before or heard me in my radio days, you'll know I'm a huge proponent of the Second Amendment. In fact, I'm a "gun nut," according to most. Or rather, a "firearms nut," as I don't believe that the Second Amendment has anything to do with guns, really. It has to do with weapons in general. I believe that the intent of the founders was to allow the American people access to the same level of weaponry that the government has -- to keep that government in check. This includes bazookas, flamethrowers, tanks and atom bombs. The very same argument for the U.S. having atom bombs is the argument one could use for John Q. Public having one. "It's a deterrent." If our atomic bombs deter Russia from being stupid, "the people's" atomic bombs would deter Washington from the same.

But back to guns specifically. One of the things that the NRA tweeted during the townhall Thursday night was that "none of the president's orders would have stopped any of the recent mass shootings." That may or may not be true. But it's also true that none of the president's orders would have stopped a "law-abiding citizen" from buying a gun, which seems to be the NRA's whole point -- that Obama's executive order is an affront on the Second Amendment in that it would prevent "law-abiding citizens" from buying guns.

In fact, the main crux of the executive order is that felons are capable of buying guns, taking advantage of a loophole which allows basically anyone to buy a gun online or at gun shows. The majority of U.S. states do not require sellers at gun shows or online to be licensed. Since only licensed dealers must perform background checks, people who buy at gun shows and online can get one without a background check.

While it may be true that none of the mass shootings of the past seven years would have been prevented with this executive order in place, I don't know that as fact. I only know that the NRA says so. And then everyone who blindly follows the NRA parrots that statement.

The NRA said it turned down the town hall invitation because ".@POTUS doesn’t want an intellectually honest policy discussion. He wanted #NRA to be an audience member at his PR stunt. No thanks."

What a crock.

As I pointed out in a previous column, it's the NRA who doesn't want an honest policy discussion on the matter. And their adherents in the Republican Party make sure there isn't one. Rather than agreeing to even try to solve the issue of mass murder, they offer "thoughts and prayers" and move on.

Keep in mind, the executive order doesn't ban a single weapon. It doesn't take away anyone's guns. All it does is help to ensure that people who shouldn't have access to them, don't.

If the NRA, Chris Collins, Rob Ortt or anyone else can explain to me why felons, murders, rapists and domestic abusers "right to bear arms" trumps the safety of their past -- and future -- victims, I'll offer my apology. Otherwise, they should stand up and announce that they have no clue what they're talking about and have more respect for guns than for human life.

+Scott Leffler is pretty annoyed at the disingenuousness of the NRA and their cohorts. Feel free to disagree with him on Twitter @scottleffler or by email at scott.leffler@gmail.com.


This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.