President Obama's ban on assault weapons is the right move - Baltimore Post-Examiner

President Obama’s ban on assault weapons is the right move

banassault

In April 1999, two teenagers at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorad0, went on a killing spree at their suburban high school, leaving 12 students and a teacher dead before turning the guns on themselves.

The nation was aghast.  There was much wringing of hands about alienated teens, mental illness, guns and their availability.  But it all faded, chalked up to an unfortunate, isolated incident

Now in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut killings — this time of 20 elementary children and six teachers—there appears to be a stronger impetus for action.

Time for gun restrictions. Obama is doing the right thing.

Time for gun restrictions. President Barrack Obama is doing the right thing.

Vice President Joseph Biden, tasked by President Barack Obama, plans Wednesday to outline how the nation can control the spread of assault weapons.

Whatever combination of solutions emerge—restrictions on assault weapons, bullets, new regulations on who can buy guns, etc., it will surely be a patchwork that will barely cover the problem.

After Littleton, Jim Myers, a wonderful writer and friend, was nonplussed by the outcry since teenage killings were a regular occurrence in his predominantly black Capitol Hill neighborhood. In his  2000 Atlantic magazine article, “Notes on the Murder of Thirty of My Neighbors, he wrote: “Killing sprees in suburban schools are rare and shocking events.  Imagine, then, living in a neighborhood where a sign in a Laundromat asks patrons to be sure, before putting their clothes in the wash, to empty all pockets of bullets.”

As a reporter I’m all too familiar with the disconnect between what happens in poor, urban areas, and affluent , white communities like Newtown or Littleton.

Interviewees in the latter invariably say, “This isn’t the kind of neighborhood where these things happen,” or “He wasn’t that kind of kid.”

Residents of neighborhoods like Jim’s – even though only 10 blocks from the Capitol in  Washington, D.C.—are much more likely to not only hear gunshots regularly, but to recognize a murder victim as someone they’ve seen around  the neighborhood.

It’s time for Americans to give up their NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) mentality that any of us are safe—in the mall, the ‘hood, the upscale cinema, at a suburban school, in our offices, etc, –and grapple with the real question:  Cui bono?  

The Latin adage means “who benefits?”  Who benefits from a nation being awash in guns?

Nimby doesn't apply anymore. Kids are not safe.

Nimby doesn’t apply anymore when children  are at stake. Time for action.

And make no mistake, we are a nation swimming in an ocean of handguns and assault weapons.

A 2007 survey by the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime found that the United States, which has 5 percent of the world’s population, owns 50 percent of the world’s guns.  That works out to about 90 guns per 100 citizens, making the United States the most heavily armed society in the world, according to the Small Arms Survey 2007 by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.

And about 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the United States.

The average man or woman on the street will explain this state of affairs by pointing to the National Rifle Association and the interpretation that the individual has the right to bear arms traced to the Second Amendment protections.

Certainly, the National Rifle Association portrays itself as the major advocate for gun rights in the American political arena with the claim of a membership of 4.3 million members.

But that number is only a tiny portion of the nation’s 90 million gun owners –a number that is actually declining, with the majority, including NRA members , in favor of  some form of gun control.

NRA may not like it but neither did tobacco companies.

NRA may not like it but neither did tobacco companies.  Don’t blame video games. Xbox and Playstation games never killed anyone.

But the NRA opposes any rollback, arguing that any restriction on guns violates the Second Amendment.

Why?  Certainly not for the safety and security of the average American.

The Newtown victims’ legal options are limited by a controversial law Congress passed seven years ago that was pushed by the NRA. The law protects gun manufacturers who had been faced with growing litigation alleging that the companies failed to force dealers of their products to abide by existing  gun laws.

Today, thanks to the NRA, gun manufacturers are explicitly protected from lawsuits that would hold them liable for crimes committed with weapons they sold.  NRA spokespeople have pointed at video games and maintained the any gun regulation wouldn’t have prevented tragedies where people are mentally ill.  It has suggested arming teachers, everything except restrict gun usage.   The sole reason for its argument against any kind of ban is to allow gun manufacturers and dealers to continue to sell guns and bullets.

Fifty years ago, the nation faced a similar situation with tobacco.

Evidence was mounting up that the nation’s addiction to nicotine was taking its toll.

Restrict guns like tobacco.

Restrict guns like tobacco.

Yet, the tobacco industry cloaked its profit motives and its opposition to any regulation in the constitutional right of Americans to smoke cigarettes.  It fought restrictions on smoking in public places and warnings on packages.  It hired consultants to propose that ventilation could allow smokers and non-smokers in the same venues.  It funded research to undermine scientific and epidemiological evidence of the adverse health effects of tobacco use and tobacco smoke. It partnered with the restaurant and bar industry maintaining that banning smoking in these places would adversely affect these businesses.

But in 1966, the U.S. became the first nation in the world to require cigarette packages to carry warnings about the dangers of smoking.

Let us hope that it doesn’t take 50 years to put some restrictions on guns in the United States.  We can’t afford it.


About the author

Karen DeWitt

Karen DeWitt has a long distinguished career as a journalist, covering politics, but also has worked on political campaigns. She compares the later to the labor of a Hebrew working for the Pharaoh. She's covered the White House and the national politics for The New York Times; foreign affairs and the White House for USA TODAY before joining that newspaper’s management as an assistant managing editor. She switched to television as a senior producer for ABC’s Nightline, where she wrote and produced the award-winning, Found Voices about the digitization of 1930s and 1940s interviews with former slaves. She returned to newspapers, as Washington editor for the Examiner newspaper and eventually left to help on local political campaigns. She has several blogs, but contributes mostly to a food blog called “I don’t speak cuisine” at peacecorpsworldwide.org and theroot.com. Contact the author.
COMMENT POLICY
  • RecordExec

    No such thing as an assault weapon… there are tools… how they are used is at the discreation of the user… so, lets go after the users who choose to utilize inanimate tools in illegal fashions

  • miltonwaddums

    Out of curiosity, what good would suing the gun manufacturers do for the families? I think none. Protected by law or not, suing a third party like that should be considered frivolous. Or maybe people should realize their greed if they’re trying to use the death of a child to buy a new Caddy.

  • TruePatriot

    Obama should not only be impeached for violating the second Amendment but he should be impeached for splitting the country and creating all of this turmoil. The path he is on to disarm Americans makes no sense. Obama gives billions of dollars to Egypt who back the Muslim Brotherhood, which kills innocent people and oppresses women, yet he feels the need to blame millions of law abiding citizens for the actions of a few crazy people. So what now Obama you want to split the country even further and incite more violence? What about the 20 fighter jets you just gave to Egypt? How many millions of innocent people will be killed by those? Taking away rights from millions of law-abiding citizens is not the answer. This will only create more violence and turmoil, which is the last thing this country needs right now. If Obama were a good man and a good President he would not be inciting this violence and split of political parties in this country. Obama is a traitor to America and the Constitution plain and simple. People come to this country to escape leaders like Obama in other countries.

  • David Hunt

    If you google “Columbine Guns Used” you can easily see that they mostly used shotguns and a rifle. One of them did use a TEC-9 which technically is classified as an assault weapon, but is not what people think of when you say “assault weapon” (as shown by your images in the article).

    I appreciate your opinion, but if you want to fix the “problem” that you see, you should push for banning handguns as they are by and large the worst offender. Good luck with that though.

  • Dominus69

    What an absurd bunch of pap. First of all an “assault weapon” by definition is a select-fire or automatic weapon, already prohibited without a very rare class III license. It isn’t a “gun that looks scary”. And why shouldn’t firearms manufacturers be protected from lawsuits if someone misuses their products? Do you sue Ford if you get run over by an F-150 or Sabatier if you get stabbed by a steak knife? The “assault weapon” ban was already tried, if you recall. And was a miserable failure. If you would care to look at some actual figures you will see that nearly all forms of crime went up EVERY year it was in place.

    I’ve owned firearms for 30 years and not once did any one of them march out of the house and kill anyone. Same with millions of other law-abiding gun owners. As usual you libs demonize an object instead of placing responsibility squarely on the perpetrator. Sorry, I won’t be wearing diapers because someone else crapped in their pants.

  • Joe shoulders

    Wow! How did this get out? It’s not often that an article gets out supporting something that every American capable of original thought knows is the correct thing to do. Anyone with a brain knows that assult weapons must banned and there is nothing good that will ever come from killing machines.

    • Dominus69

      Thing is, it isn’t an “original thought”. It’s trotted out every time there is a shooting and has already been tried and found ineffective. Criminals, by definition, don’t have regard for the law. So making more laws is going to have any effect? You are as ridiculous as the author.

      • joe shoulders

        The same can be said about idiots that think assault weapons should be available. When I say banned, I mean ELIMINATED, destroyed, confiscated, never to be seen again. That’s my wish. There is no reason these rapid fire killing machines need to exist on this planet. Of course I’m unrealistic, but I’d love to see it. The NRA needs to be eliminated as well. The right to bear arms has caused enough problems in our country. I feel that if the men that wrote the Second Amendment could see what’s developed today, they would shake their heads and say, “We got that one wrong”

        • joe shoulders

          also, I was right. This well-written piece has disappeared from Google News completely.

          • Dominus69

            Perhaps because it is not ‘news’. It is an opinion piece. And also rubbish.

        • Dominus69

          None of the school shootings occurred with a ‘rapid fire killing machine’, they occurred with a rifle that has no greater firing speed than a revolver. An automatic or select fire weapon requires a Class-III license, which is pretty hard to get. So you are arguing against something which is immaterial to the subject.

  • Mo Zo

    actually there was an assault weapons ban in effect when Columbine happened,the libs keep blaming the gun but its the place and the person who keeps coming back for more,the libs want to disarm the good law abiding folks in fear of guns and our beliefs but the truth is to combat evil it takes a hard punch back and liberals fear punching back..They want protection but question in our methods they want to spit on our second amendment while abusing the first amendment…liberalism is a disease

  • disqus_qYIaQyw8pS

    What a profoundly stupid woman. Blaming the pencil for the misspelled words does not enable ending misspellings. Acting in direct opposition to the United States Constitution is not good for the future.

    Columbine occurred DURING the Clinton “assault weapons” ban. Speaking of “assault weapons” clearly none of you people whining for a ban have ever heard of the “mad minute”. GOOGLE IT. You will see with your own eyes just how profoundly stupid this entire ban evil black guns concept is.

    What I find most troubling, is the obvious blanket assumption by people like this author that everyone is as profoundly stupid as they are. THEY should be banned.

  • perezwilliam615

    Its not Gun Control !!!! the thugs and criminals and drug dealers, Will always have assault weapons. Its Athesis Control” ever since they taken prayers out of our public schools. Our Education system went under !!! So no one to blame than our selves. ( American’s).

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