January 19, 2013
WASHINGTON – Adam Lanza, a young lunatic, got hold of his mother’s (legally purchased) guns. He killed her and then went to an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut where he proceeded to gun down little children and some of their teachers.
Let’s “do something”
This massacre caused an enormous national uproar. Commenting on the tragedy, President Obama was in tears. Hence the urge to “do something”, so that we shall have no more such tragedies.
After some consultations with relevant constituencies and stakeholders, President Obama came up with a series of measures, most of them to be enacted by executive order, as they do not require new legislation. The focus is on restricting the sale of assault weapons, magazines with too many bullets and creating new measures whereby doctors would alert authorities about possible criminal intentions revealed by their patients.
Step in the right direction?
Is this the proverbial first step in the right direction? Not really. This is feel good stuff, and little else. None of these measures comes even close to severely restricting the constitutional right to bear arms. Of course, it would ideal to enact new norms that will make it impossible for mentally deranged people to have access to guns. But this is very difficult.
Most lunatics do not go around broadcasting their intentions to acquire weapons in order to execute a massacre. How do you catch them before they act? Who will determine which mentally ill patients should not be able to legally purchase a gun?
Too many guns in America
More broadly, and this is what really matters, even assuming draconian new measures enacted today, America is awash in weapons. Estimates vary. But we are talking about 280 to 300 million weapons already in circulation. This is an unbelievably large number. People with bad intentions will find a way to get one or more.
Feel good actions
Taking all this into consideration, Obama’s announced new measures are the proverbial attempt to warm up the oceans. It is understandable that the Nation’s Chief Executive wants to give the impression that he got busy and that countermeasures are now in place. But all this is mostly politics. Certainly Obama is polishing his image as defender of vulnerable children. This will get him a higher approval rating. Women will love all this.
But this will do almost nothing. Let’s remember that previous legislation that prohibited the sale of assault weapons from 1994 until 2004 had almost no impact on the number of homicides.
America has to deal with a gun addiction problem
America has a real addiction problem when it comes to fire arms. The otherwise unobjectionable right to own guns for self-defense has been stretched to absurd levels. While some states have created restrictions, by and large it is easier to buy a gun in America than to obtain a driver’s license. This is grotesque. Quite frankly, given all these tens of millions of guns floating around, the real surprise is that horrible massacres like Newtown are not more frequent. Mentally ill people who have plans certainly have plenty of tools available, if they choose to act.
Given this persistent gun addiction and the popular resistance to serious curbs, if America really believes that these assorted new partial restrictions enacted by President Obama will make a real difference on gun violence, then they’ll believe anything.