Gun Control Standoff Heats Up
As U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords recovers from gunshot wounds and Arizona shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner pleads not guilty in a court of law, pundits and politicians prepare their arms for a debate on a historically heated and politically polarizing issue -- gun control.
On one side of the ring, support has risen for stricter gun control laws according to a recent Gallup poll. As The Huffington Post reported:
"Using their own words, Americans cite stricter gun laws as the best way to prevent more mass shootings. Gallup asked an open-ended question about what could be done to "prevent mass shootings from occurring in the United States."
Not only was the number one response gun-related ("stricter gun laws"), but almost half (42%) responded in some way about stricter gun laws. Note this does not include "teaching children about proper use of guns" or "allowing people to carry guns for their own protection."
And hours before the State of the Union, N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) pressed for President Barack Obama to “call for stricter gun legislation” in his annual address to the nation:
"We cannot wait any longer," Bloomberg said, flanked by family members of 34 victims of gun violence, who he said were there to represent the daily average of Americans killed by guns. "Every gun sale should go through a background check," he said."
Already, members of Congress plan to curb gun violence through federal policy. In particular, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D, NY) are working on a bill that would ban high-capacity clips like the one Loughner used in Tucson:
"We’re not dealing with a gun, we’re dealing with a piece of equipment that goes with a gun," she said. "With the constitutional Supreme Court, everyone has a right to own a gun. Municipalities and certainly governments can have language that can protect their citizens, and large-capacity clips [are appropriate] certainly for the military and certainly for police officers.
"But for the average citizen, I do not believe they should be able to have large-capacity clips,” McCarthy added."
Yet on the other side of the standoff, the National Rifle Association warned lawmakers not to impede on Second Amendment rights. They claim Lautenberg, McCarthy, and other gun control proponents are using the Tucson shooting to further their own political agenda:
"Even while our country was respecting the heartache of the people of Tucson and waiting for the full facts of the case, anti-gun activists were renewing their push for more gun control laws," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, in a Wednesday letter to members of Congress.
"Indeed, gun control advocates were quick to push several schemes," Cox said.
The NRA isn’t alone. Other gun advocate groups are also preparing to fight firearm legislation. One such group - the gun lobby Gun Owners of America - will oppose new gun control legislation based on principle. As their director of communications Erich Pratt told the New York Times:
“These politicians need to remember that these rights aren’t given to us by them. They come from God. They are God-given rights. They can’t be infringed or limited in any way. What are they going to do: limit it two or three rounds. Having lots of ammunition is critical, especially if the police are not around and you need to be able to defend yourself against mobs.”
Republican officials are also pushing back. On ABC News’ This Week, Sen. Mike Lee (R, UT) encouraged Congress not to bow down to pressure from Loughner and contended that immediate gun legislation would endow Loughner with a “victory” of sorts. According to the website Opposing Views:
"The shooter wins if we, who've been elected, change what we do just because of what he did," Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah said on ABC News' "This Week," during a segment about members of Congress being more sensitive about their use of inflammatory rhetoric."
With both sides staunch in their positions, gun control promises to be a contentious, significant issue -- a thorn of sorts in the midst of calls for nationwide reconciliation. During a memorial for the victims of the Tucson shooting, Obama expressed his belief that “the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.” Increasingly, gun control looks likely to test this axiom, to expose the extent that this nation is truly divided.
Reach reporter Aaron Liu here.