Gun control: It’s all about Grace

I was going to write about racism in Australia, following alleged race riots in the Brisbane satellite city of Logan this week, but I decided to wait. Racism is a very difficult topic, and this is a complex situation. Upcoming soon, I promise.
As I was mulling over alternatives for this post, Barack Obama made it easy for me. He started acting like a second-term president with a courageous agenda, and signed 23 executive orders on gun control, which have already angered the Republicans and the National Rifle Association.
The President also admitted Congress had to pass specific proposals to “make a real and lasting difference.” Among those were: a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun; a ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit on magazines; and Congress should create serious penalties for gun trafficking and act on the administration’s $4 billion proposal to keep 15 thousand police on the street.
President Obama also said the administration would help schools hire more resource officers (armed guards) if they want them, and he would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the best ways to reduce gun violence, after opponents had threatened to stop funding scientific and medical research into its causes. And he’d ask Congress to fund research into the effects of violent video games on young minds. (Here’s a transcript of the press conference:
The President’s proposals came in a White House ceremony with Vice-President Joe Biden and some of the families of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre last month, which left 20 children and six adults dead. Also there were four schoolchildren who had written to the president asking for action (see photo above). And here’s where the controversy begins. The National Rifle Association released a video ( attacking the President as an “elitist hypocrite” for opposing their proposal for armed guards in schools nationwide while his daughters are protected by the Secret Service.
“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” the ad asks. The question some administration supporters was asking was: who is more stupid, the NRA for targeting the president’s children, or some Republicans in Congress, for attacking Mr Obama for his executive orders on gun control, accusing him of “cynically and systematically using his position as President to lead the country.”
How dare Barack Obama use his position as President to lead the country! What a preposterous idea! Next, he’ll be using his re-election as a mandate for gun control. The Republicans were again – as they did with the Second Amendment — citing the Constitution, which outlines the President’s powers, and provides checks and balances to prevent any of the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – from dominating the other two.
But this time, the stupidity of the attack on Obama is demonstrated in this comment by the Republican Texan congressman, Steve Stockman: “Mr. President, there’s still time for you to get in line. But if you continue to fulfill the duties of President of the United States that are expressly permitted in the Constitution, you are playing with fire.” He accused the President of “wanton exploitation of powers that are legally granted to him under the U.S. Constitution.” Yes, you read that correctly, the president was being threatened for using powers legally granted to him.
And stepping into the debate was former Prime Minister John Howard, whose article in the influential New York Times opinion pages was headlined: “I Went After Guns. Obama Can, Too”
As most Australians would know, Prime Minister Howard acted swiftly and successfully on gun control after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 when Martin Bryant used semi-automatic weapons to kill 35 people. In his piece, Howard said he knew passing gun-control laws wouldn’t be easy because of the strong resistance by some in rural Australia and the challenge it presented for the National Party. A federally financed gun buyback scheme resulted in the destruction of nearly 700 thousand guns, and the Nationals supported the ban, despite the electoral pain.
“In the end,” Mr Howard writes, “we won the battle to change the gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate … In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres – each with more than four victims – causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996.”
It’s difficult to say if there is majority support across the US for banning certain weapons, although after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, I believe there is.
Like John Howard, Barack Obama knows it won’t be easy: “There will be pundits and politicians and special-interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear, or higher ratings, or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform.”
And like the former PM, the President also knows that he needs public support to get the legislation passed, and not just in the small “l” liberal states and urban areas, but also “in those areas, in congressional districts, where the tradition of gun-ownership is strong” — rural areas and the West, where one of the cowboy mottos can still be heard: “This country was born by the gun, and it will live or die by the gun.” (My brother, a former US Marine, used to say that all the time.)
“I will put everything I’ve got into this,” said Obama. But he also admitted: “The only way we can change is if the American people demand it.”
And he appealed to Americans to make it happen: “The most important changes we can make, depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote, and the American people need to make sure that they do. Get them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“And if they say no, ask them why not? Ask them what’s more important? Doing whatever it takes to get an A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns? Or, giving parents some piece of mind when they drop their child off to first grade?”
The parents of seven-year-old Grace McDonnell, who died in the school massacre, were at the ceremony. They had given the President a painting by Grace when he visited Newtown last month, and he hung it in his private study, just off the Oval office.
Every time he sees it, the president said, “I think about how, when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now, for Grace, for the 25 other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give.”
Let’s hope members of Congress remember Grace when the vote is taken.

8 thoughts on “Gun control: It’s all about Grace

  1. A very interesting piece Tom. What a good film the gun saga in America would make. A “Rocky”. Good versus evil perhaps. Or even a modern day Mad Max. How dare the elected President of the USA do the job he was elected to do! Perhaps the mavericks that are the NRA or indeed some of those in the Republican party, could be, just some of those that the President should be targeting.
    Non rational persons owning guns? Does not compute. Steve Stockmans comment that the President should get in line is ridiculous. He has to realise that the President has gotten into a line, with the people who elected him. Not the line Stockman wants him in.
    As to Howard, yes he and his government did react decisively after Port Arthur. However I refer you to the latest statistics on gun ownership in Australia that suggest that today the amount of guns in circulation has now exceeded those pre 1996. How and why? The knee jerk reaction perhaps was a quick fix, not a long term solution. I also refer you to an article in todays ” Telegraph” outlining gun theft and shootings in Sydney over the last twelve months.
    I saw an interview recently where it was suggested that the gun does not kill, it is the person that pulls the trigger.
    Not a bad place to start for a long time solution. Put this together with the banning of guns or the restriction of their use in the short term is the only way to go.
    For Grace, and all those before, and after her.

    • Slam, Thanks for your comment. As always, passionate and insightful. Thanks also for sending me the link on the article in today’s Daily Telegraph. It was very interesting and I’ll include a short link here for people who don’t always read the Tele ( Yes, it now seems criminal gangs are stealing guns, and perhaps it’s only a matter of time before one gang member decides to start shooting people at random. I hope it doesn’t happen, but it’s always possible. The NRA and its supporters often use this quote: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The only problem is that people with guns are more likely to kill people than people without them. I agree we have to do something, and it will be interesting to see if President Obama’s plan gets through Congress. Some states are already saying they will oppose it, and the NRA has only just begun their protests. We can but hope, for the sake of Grace. Tom

      • No wonder you left the great USA Tom. No tits but plenty of blood. Long live @#^%$#@.HA. Obama please try to get it right. People around the world are listening and watching. You want to lead, then lead. Four short years to change a very varied country.GOOD LUCK.

  2. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter
    to be really something which I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I’m
    looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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