Ethics & Religion
January 7, 2016
Obama Is Right on Gun Control
By Mike McManus
President Obama has taken modest steps to close loopholes so that more guns
sales would be subject to a check on buyers' backgrounds. Currently, backgrounds
are not checked on 40 percent of gun sales (on the Internet and at gun shows).
"Our unalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- those
rights were stripped away from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara,
and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first graders in Newtown," he
Surrounded by families who had lost a child or a spouse, he paused and repeated,
"First graders." Tears welled up. "Every time I think about those kids, it gets
Federal law already requires that anyone "engaged in the business" of selling
guns must be licensed and conduct background checks on every purchase. The
problem is that many sellers at gun shows and on line claim to be hobbyists who
are exempt from those requirements.
Obama's executive action does not expand existing law, but alleges that those
who claim to be hobbyists may be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms.
He is tightening the definitions so that those who sell guns in their original
packaging will be subject to criminal penalties for violating the law.
In demanding better enforcement of existing laws, he is asking Congress for
funding to hire 200 new investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives. Unfortunately, a Republican Congress is unlikely to do
He says the FBI will increase the number of workers who process the background
checks by 50 percent, or 230 people. That and new computers will reduce delays
in a system that receives 63,000 background check requests daily.
Obama is also seeking to close a loophole that has allowed people to avoid
background checks when they buy machine guns and sawed-off shotguns by creating
corporate entities and trusts to conduct the sales.
He is making it clear that health privacy rules do not bar states from reporting
mental health records to the background check system. Finally, he is asking
Congress for $500 million to improve basic mental health care.
These are mostly modest improvements to implement existing law, to reduce the
number of guns sold to criminals or those with mental health problems.
Yet to Republican candidates for President, you'd think he tried to repeal the
Second Amendment. Sen. Marco Rubio immediately released a new TV ad that Obama
plans "to take away our guns.
N.J. Governor Chris Christie thundered, "The president wants to act as if he's a
king, as if he's a dictator." Jeb Bush says Obama proposes to "use executive
power he doesn't have... He wants to take power away from law-abiding citizens
and the protection of the Second Amendment. I will fight as hard as I can
against this president."
Anticipating such criticism, Obama asked in his 37-minute speech, "How did we
get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check
means taking away people's guns?"
A slight majority of Americans, 53 percent, gave positive marks to the
President's proposals, but that number masks strident differences by political
party. Three-quarters of Democrats rate his proposals favorably, but nearly as
many Republicans (72 percent) oppose them.
What's puzzling is that before the President's speech, a Washington Post-- ABC
poll found nearly nine in 10 Republicans supported background checks at gun
Apparently, however, when Obama speaks passionately, he arouses passionate
Nevertheless, his proposals are modest and reasonable small steps that he can
take in the face of congressional inaction – slightly ramping up enforcement,
interpreting present laws in ways to close loopholes so that fewer criminals and
mentally unstable people can buy guns to kill innocent people, or themselves.
(Two-thirds of the 30,000 killed by guns are suicides.)
His single major request was for $500 million in new funding to care for those
with mental illness.
"Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care
about as well," the President asserted. "Our right to worship freely and safely
– that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. And was
denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill and Sikhs
in Oak Creek. They had rights too."
President Obama deserves credit for taking modest steps that will save lives.
Republican candidates for President deserve no credit for parroting the National
Rifle Association's line.
Copyright Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated
30+ Years / 1700+ Columns
2017: Column 1861: Cohabitation: A Growing Problem - Part II
Cohabitation: A Growing Problem - Part I
Texting While Driving - A Killer
Why Have "Religious Nones" Tripled?
Norma McCorvey Roe of Roe v. Wade
The Worst Valentine: Cohabitation
Pornography: A Public Health Hazard
Christianity Gives Women Equal Opportunity
Sextortion Kills Teens
Assisted Suicide Is Growing
same sex marriage,
abortion and infanticide,