Last updateFri, 11 Mar 2016 6pm

Gunning for a better future

“We know that we can’t stop every act of violence. But what if we tried to stop even one?”  U.S. President Barack Obama

After the inaction of the U.S. Congress and rising incidents of mass slaughter, President Obama has decided to go it alone and take executive action to shore up loopholes in the law that reduce the possibility of undesirable citizens accessing weapons.

The proposals are modest but likely to bring at least a modicum of comfort to thousands of parents and relatives of innocent people who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

Inevitably, a significant section of U.S. public opinion, Republican presidential candidates and the ever powerful gun lobby immediately decried the proposals, calling them the first step to “confiscation” and “disarming of law-abiding Americans.”

Nowhere in Obama’s proposals is there any inference that Americans are to be deprived of their constitutional right to own guns.   

Guns are not the cause of mass slayings. Crazy people are. Get this: Good people will still be able to buy guns if they wish. As many as they want.  Obama’s common sense idea is to stop them getting into the hands of bad people, the mentally ill, criminals, would-be terrorists, etcetera.  

Increasing the number of background checks on all firearm purchases – not just those handled by licensed dealers – may not meet the aspirations of many gun control advocates who want much stricter legislation.  But it’s a start.

True, some mass killers obtain guns legally, as gun rights activists often point out.  And the new legislation certainly won’t end the tragedies.

But millions of Americans are sick of the inertia of their elected officials.

What’s more important? That it takes a little more time to purchase a weapon than before due to more stringent checks? Or that one person in one corner of the United States may find it harder to carry out mass murder.  Sure, a demented person may still decide to pick up a knife or machete and go the mall and create horror and mayhem.  But the weapon of choice significantly reduces the potential for casualties.

The gun debate has a long, long way to run.   Licensing, training in gun use, greater restrictions on assault weapons, better gun safety controls to prevent household accidents are all areas for urgent discussion in the United States.

It can be difficult for foreigners to comprehend the United States’ apparent obsession with guns.  What they often overlook is that the issue is wrapped around the history and culture of a uniquely evolved nation in which the notions of freedom, rights and constitutional supremacy have attained almost sacred significance.  

Only the harebrained would consider taking away the millions of guns owned by law-abiding Americans.  But equally foolhardy are the folks with their heads in the sand who believe tighter regulation of the gun industry actually makes the country less safe.

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