I find myself in an unusual, even uncomfortable, situation. I support President Obama’s current gun control efforts. What makes it unusual is that I am no fan of Obama. Not in the least. As a conservative, tea party leaning Republican, I vehemently disagree with nearly all of the President’s policies and performance. What makes it uncomfortable is that I am a proud, chartered, lifetime member of the NRA, having first joined the organization at the age of ten, and I firmly believe in the Second Amendment’s guarantee of private gun ownership rights. I am personally licensed for concealed carry, although here in New Hampshire you don’t even need a license to carry on your hip in the open. But in this case, I think Obama is acting appropriately. And I think, for the most part, the NRA is not.
I’ve reviewed all 23 points of the President’s gun control related Executive Orders. Let me say up front that the whole issue of Executive Orders is a real problem for me. As a reverent student of the Constitution, I have long held that the practice of Executive Orders is and has been excessive, deleterious to the Constitution, and a flagrant arrogation of power to the presidency. Franklin Roosevelt was by far its most egregious practitioner, but all of our Presidents since have also too-liberally used it in their own games of political one-upmanship. However, precedent wields the judicial heft of sanction under our system of law, and Obama is doing nothing more in this regard than did his predecessors. The only saving grace is that what one President can decree, another can simply nullify.
I find nothing inherently unconstitutional in the gun control measures put forth. The most restrictive of them are properly arranged to require Congressional action. They are not prohibitive ukases as decried by opponents of the measures. The remaining presidential action items are certainly within any President’s powers, and merely establish or encourage practical, common sense efforts to gain broader insight into and control over some of the issues at hand.
Within those items slated for Congressional action are the most apparently controversial: background checks for private gun sales, national registration, and the banning of assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and certain high impact ammunition. I have no problem with any of these per se, but the devil is in the details and the details will be up to our legislators, and ultimately our judges, to flesh out. I’ll reserve final judgments until that happens.
We American gun owners number about 100 million, with about 5 million of us in the NRA. Between us we own somewhere between 300 and 500 million guns. As with any large group, we are a motley lot, diverse of opinion and agenda. Members of political parties certainly don’t unanimously agree on party principles. The NRA is no different. Personally, my Second Amendment rights give me freedom to own and use guns for self-defense and recreation. I don’t happen to hunt, but everyone has the right to do so. However, I am not among those who believe that we have the right to own any kind of weapon deemed necessary to arm a defensive militia against the potential threat of a rogue government. While I respect and share the passion for liberty such people possess, I don’t share their rationale. If I did, it seems that the likes of assault rifles and armor piercing ammo would merely make me slightly less ill-equipped to engage war with American soldiers. Tanks, missiles and fighter jets, anyone?
If we as a society are to avoid devolving into chaos and anarchy, we have a compelling interest in drawing lines somewhere. Subject to Congressional clarifications, the lines being drawn by Obama seem acceptable to me, because they aim to protect all of us from the worst among us, and also because they might just give my police officer son a better fighting chance against the bad guys.
Having said all that, these proposed measures still fall short in at least one major area. Namely, the irresponsible acculturation of violence promulgated by the entertainment industry’s increasingly ferocious movies and computer games. And while I’m on the theme of irresponsibility, let it be said that in publishing names and addresses of locally registered gun owners the Westchester, New York based Journal News easily exceeded the bounds of decency and public safety. First Amendment and Freedom of Information Act notwithstanding, that kind of dangerous demagoguery needs to be sanctioned.
Not to take everything away from the NRA, one final personal thought. I completely agree with their recommendations, as articulated by Wayne LaPierre, for swifter, surer and more severe punishment of whomever commits gun crimes – and for posting in our schools competently trained, well-armed guards, preferably ex-police or ex-military. We do it to protect our money in banks, our merchandise in malls, our rock stars in concerts, and our politicians at large. The further protection of our precious children hardly seems a stretch of what should be a fundamental duty of our society.