Since the tragic shooting of 20 schoolchildren in Connecticut a short while ago, there has been a flurry of activity in the U.S. that represents an attempt at improving gun control. Some of the developments have been reported in earlier blogs; this one is simply an update so that readers outside the U.S. can appreciate what an uphill battle this truly is.
Cuomo, the governor of New York State, is moving towards proposing what has been described as “one of the country’s most restrictive bans on assault weapons”. I saw a clip on TV last night and there is no doubt he is passionate about this. He stated that the existing law has “more holes than Swiss cheese,” and that he intends to broaden the number of guns and magazines covered by the law. He wants to make it harder for gun makers to find ways to get around the ban. He even considered confiscation as a possible option but later appeared to agree that this would not be practical. The gun rights lobby jumped on the comment about confiscation and compared it to living in Nazi Germany! Alongside rewriting the state’s assault weapons ban, Cuomo may propose including wider mental health records in background checks of gun buyers, lower limits on magazine capacity, and making gun permits subject to periodic recertification. I hope he accurately captured the changing mood of the country when he stated, “I think what the nation is saying now after Connecticut, …. is ‘Do something, please’ ”.
The state’s District Attorneys Association have called for the elimination of a ‘grandfather clause’ that allows some high-capacity magazines and many lawmakers have proposed limiting handgun purchases to one per month (sic!). Not surprisingly, the opposition continues to echo the NRA view that instead of banning guns, New York should require armed security at all schools. All this is hard to believe for those of us who live in countries where gun ownership is much less prevalent.
Other recent developments:
In an extraordinary posting, Gabrielle Giffords the congresswoman who was shot in the head, wrote “Special interests purporting to represent gun owners but really advancing the interests of an ideological fringe have used big money and influence to cow Congress into submission. Rather than working to find the balance between our rights and the regulation of a dangerous product, these groups have cast simple protections for our communities as existential threats to individual liberties. Rather than conducting a dialogue, they threaten those who divert from their orthodoxy with political extinction.” The entire column, which appeared in USA Today early in January, deserves to be read in its entirety.
Vice-President Biden has assembled a task force to come up with a plan that stands a chance of being approved by Congress. The President has “pledged to crack down on access to what he called “weapons of war” “ but it is predicted that “a ban on military-style assault weapons will be virtually impossible to achieve and the focus has shifted to other measures the White House believes are more politically achievable.
One possibly achievable measure might be more stringent background checks on would-be gun buyers. The Washington Post today stated that Biden believed there was ‘an emerging consensus’ around “universal background checks” for all gun buyers and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.” Predictably, however, the National Rifle Association “strongly rejected what it called “an agenda to attack the Second Amendment” and “indicated it would have nothing more to do with the vice president’s task force on gun laws”.