There are two op-eds today on the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson, one from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was wounded in the shooting, and one from President Barack Obama.
Gabrielle Giffords writes at the Washington Post, We can no longer wait for a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip to act:
The new year is a time of optimism and new commitments. For me, it’s also a powerful time for an additional reason: Every Jan. 8, I think about how close I came to losing my life on a bright winter morning five years ago in Tucson, when a would-be assassin opened fire on me and a group of my constituents, injuring 12 others and killing six.
I was shot in the head from three feet away, but somehow I survived.
I made a decision that my new life would be lived as my old life was: in service of our country. One thing that means for me today is using my second chance to do everything I can to make this great country safer from the kind of gun violence that took the lives of those around me and changed many others’, and mine, forever.
Instead of focusing on what I cannot do, I have tried to live without limits. I’ve set myself tougher and tougher goals. I’ve learned and delivered speeches. I jumped out of an airplane. I spent the night on one of our Navy’s aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson. I’ve taken my French horn out of its case for the first time in years. This November, I rode 40 miles in Tucson’s annual charity bike ride, El Tour de Tucson.
And with my husband, Mark Kelly, I have fought to make sure our leaders finally do something to save the lives of the 33 Americans who are murdered with a gun every day.
Today, five years after I was shot, we are making progress. While Congress refuses to act, many state leaders are embracing common-sense change that keeps guns out of the wrong hands.
This week, we made even more progress when President Obama announced that his administration will significantly narrow the loopholes that let people buy guns without a background check. It is the right, responsible thing to do.
The president’s reasonable proposal addresses a lethal problem: People who are in the business of selling guns can avoid the current requirement to conduct background checks on their buyers by claiming not to be gun dealers. Go to a gun show, for example, and in booths right next to licensed gun dealers whose customers have to undergo background checks, you will see others who operate outside of the rules, selling dozens or hundreds of the same guns each year without background checks.
The steps announced this week will narrow that gap by requiring anyone who sells a significant number of guns or operates like a commercial dealer to get a license and require each buyer to pass a criminal background check. Truly private sales, such as simply selling a gun to a neighbor or a friend, will not be affected. But, based on analysis by the gun-violence-prevention organization I co-founded, millions of firearms transactions that currently happen with no questions asked will be subject to background checks.
The president’s proposal makes another key improvement: It addresses the weakness in the background-check system that authorities say allowed a dangerous man to buy a gun and murder nine innocent people in a Charleston, S.C., church. It does this by making the system more efficient and effective, including by increasing the number of background-check examiners and related staff members by 50 percent and reporting which states do and don’t provide essential background-check records to the FBI.
Other important provisions will require gun dealers to report lost and stolen guns, making it easier for law enforcement to crack down on the illegal gun trade; and will increase investment in gun safety technology and mental-health treatment. These are just common sense.
Almost three years ago, when a minority of senators caved in to their fear of the corporate gun lobby and blocked sensible, bipartisan background-check legislation in Congress, I said that those senators had failed their constituents and, with every preventable gun death, made shame their legacy.
Many of those same senators, along with a lot of other elected officials and some candidates for president, will be quick to haul out the talking points the gun lobbyists in Washington gave them and attack the president’s reasonable action. They will warn of dire consequences and willfully spread misinformation. But the truth is this: These new steps will hurt no one, and they will protect many.
Around mile 32 of the bike ride I did in November, I almost gave up. I’m mostly paralyzed on my right side, and even though I had been training for months, my body was tired and it was hard to keep going. But I remembered my goal. I had a team of friends and supporters with me, so we just kept pedaling together. And then we crossed the finish line.
Reducing the number of Americans murdered or injured by guns is also not easy. It’s a long, hard haul.
But we cannot falter now, and we cannot wait for a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip to prevent any of the 12,000 gun murders that happen in our country every year.
President Barack Obama writes at the New York Times, Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility:
THE epidemic of gun violence in our country is a crisis. Gun deaths and injuries constitute one of the greatest threats to public health and to the safety of the American people. Every year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns. Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Accidents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children. We’re the only advanced nation on earth that sees this kind of mass violence with this frequency.
A national crisis like this demands a national response. Reducing gun violence will be hard. It’s clear that common-sense gun reform won’t happen during this Congress. It won’t happen during my presidency. Still, there are steps we can take now to save lives. And all of us — at every level of government, in the private sector and as citizens — have to do our part.
We all have a responsibility.
On Tuesday, I announced new steps I am taking within my legal authority to protect the American people and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people. They include making sure that anybody engaged in the business of selling firearms conducts background checks, expanding access to mental health treatment and improving gun safety technology. These actions won’t prevent every act of violence, or save every life — but if even one life is spared, they will be well worth the effort.
Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen. I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform. And if the 90 percent of Americans who do support common-sense gun reforms join me, we will elect the leadership we deserve.
All of us have a role to play — including gun owners. We need the vast majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us after every mass shooting, who support common-sense gun safety and who feel that their views are not being properly represented, to stand with us and demand that leaders heed the voices of the people they are supposed to represent.
The gun industry also needs to do its part. And that starts with manufacturers.
As Americans, we hold consumer goods to high standards to keep our families and communities safe. Cars have to meet safety and emissions requirements. Food has to be clean and safe. We will not end the cycle of gun violence until we demand that the gun industry take simple actions to make its products safer as well. If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should also make sure she can’t pull the trigger of a gun.
Yet today, the gun industry is almost entirely unaccountable. Thanks to the gun lobby’s decades of efforts, Congress has blocked our consumer products safety experts from being able to require that firearms have even the most basic safety measures. They’ve made it harder for the government’s public health experts to conduct research on gun violence. They’ve guaranteed that manufacturers enjoy virtual immunity from lawsuits, which means that they can sell lethal products and rarely face consequences. As parents, we wouldn’t put up with this if we were talking about faulty car seats. Why should we tolerate it for products — guns — that kill so many children each year?
At a time when manufacturers are enjoying soaring profits, they should invest in research to make guns smarter and safer, like developing microstamping for ammunition, which can help trace bullets found at crime scenes to specific guns. And like all industries, gun manufacturers owe it to their customers to be better corporate citizens by selling weapons only to responsible actors.
Ultimately, this is about all of us. We are not asked to perform the heroism of 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson from Tennessee, who was killed before Christmas while shielding his friends from gunfire. We are not asked to display the grace of the countless victims’ families who have dedicated themselves to ending this senseless violence. But we must find the courage and the will to mobilize, organize and do what a strong, sensible country does in response to a crisis like this one.
All of us need to demand leaders brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies. All of us need to stand up and protect our fellow citizens. All of us need to demand that governors, mayors and our representatives in Congress do their part.
Change will be hard. It won’t happen overnight. But securing a woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight. The liberation of African-Americans didn’t happen overnight. Advancing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans has taken decades’ worth of work.
Those moments represent American democracy, and the American people, at our best. Meeting this crisis of gun violence will require the same relentless focus, over many years, at every level. If we can meet this moment with that same audacity, we will achieve the change we seek. And we will leave a stronger, safer country to our children.
Editor’s Note: This week President Obama took “executive actions” to strengthen gun safety regulations. The president did not issue any “executive orders,” contrary to what a lazy and ill-informed media have reported. The nuance you may have missed in Obama’s gun control plan:
An executive order is a specific type of presidential action — an official, legally binding mandate passed down from the president to federal agencies under the executive branch. Executive orders are printed in the Federal Register, according to the U.S. National Archives, and they’re numbered consecutively for the sake of keeping them straight. Executive Orders | whitehouse.gov.
On the other hand, an executive action is just that: any action taken by a president. This term is more of a catch-all, experts say. Executive actions can include executive orders, but they can also encompass presidential memorandums, proclamations, or any number of other ways the president directs the operations of the executive branch.
This is why the National Rifle Association other “gun rights” organizations have not been saying that they are going to court to block the president’s “executive orders,” because there are none. That doesn’t stop Tea-Publicans in Congress from posturing threatening to do so. GOP scrambles for response to Obama’s gun control actions.
The changes were modest in scope — experts and even the NRA agreed that their overall impact would be small. That didn’t stop Obama’s critics from fiercely denouncing the proposals. But the president predicted the public would be on his side. The actions would be supported by an “overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners,” he said Monday.
As it turns out, he was right.
A new CNN/ORC survey of 1,000 Americans finds that the public supports Obama’s plan by a 2-1 ratio: 67 percent of respondents favored the executive actions, while 32 percent opposed them. Even more striking, a similar share of people in gun-owning households — 63 percent — supported the measures.
Even more striking: 51 percent of Republicans support Obama’s executive action on guns. When’s the last time 51 percent of Republicans agreed with Obama on anything?
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We know that attaching a politician’s name to a survey question can greatly influence partisan responses to the question. In a recent YouGov polling experiment, for instance, 16 percent of Republicans agreed with the notion of universal health care when told that Obama agreed with it. When a separate group of Republicans was told instead that Donald Trump agreed with universal health care, support jumped up to 44 percent.
So the fact that 51 percent of Republicans agreed with Obama’s gun actions, even when told that Obama was the one proposing them, is pretty significant.
In the end, like so many gun policy proposals — universal background checks, a federal database of gun sales, barring people with mental illness from buying guns, prohibiting gun ownership for domestic abusers, prohibiting gun sales to people on the terror watch list — Obama’s executive actions are supported by a strong majority of the public and of gun owners.
But there’s a small minority of citizens — led by the leadership of the NRA and its allies in Congress — who vehemently oppose any additional restrictions on gun access. This group of people also happens to be very vocal, and they’ve done a great job of convincing the media and the public that their numbers are larger than they really are.