September 7, 2012
Photo Credit: AP
Considering the ongoing debate surrounding gun laws in America, people on both sides of the aisle continue to sound-off over regulatory policy. While those on the right typically defend their right to own guns under the Second Amendment, liberals, using recent shootings as a basis for creating stricter gun laws, take a very different view. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, for one, made his opinions about gun control clear this week.
Overall, the Democrats were very quiet about their views on guns at this week’s convention. On Thursday, The Washington Times’ Emily Miller wrote, “You didn’t hear the word ‘guns’ voluntarily pass the lips of any Democratic speaker at this week’s convention in Charlotte, N.C.” This, she seemed to contend, was intentional, seeing as Democrats, who tend to be more favorable of gun control legislation, purportedly feared that they would offend the 47 percent of Americans who own firearms.
But Jackson, a revered leader among Democratic Party faithful, wasn’t afraid to speak out in detail about what he believes should happen with gun regulations in America. Miller explains (emphasis added):
The Democratic policy statement approved this week calls for enacting “common-sense improvements — like reinstating the assault-weapons ban and closing the gun-show loophole.” The so-called “assault-weapons ban” in the 1990s banned scary-looking guns and magazines that held over 10 rounds. The platform does toss in a line that claims to recognize the right to bear arms, but it is “subject to reasonable regulation.” The left wants “an honest, open national conversation about firearms.”
I asked many Democratic leaders about the party’s position on firearms at the convention, but almost all claimed not to have read that section of the platform. Jesse Jackson was one of the few willing to come out and say he wants to ban all guns except bolt-action rifles, shotguns and revolvers.
“You have the right to have a gun in your castle to protect your house. You have the right to have a gun to hunt,” the reverend said in an interview in Charlotte. “Semi-automatic weapons — military-style weapons — are beyond the zone of reasonableness.” The civil-rights leader asserted, “These mass killings in Aurora and Milwaukee … we must end easy access and ban these assault weapons.” He added, “Twenty-five percent of all police are killed by assault weapons, and they cannot defend themselves from that.”
Jackson’s admission, though it wasn’t openly shared by many other Democrats this week, is inherent in the party’s official platform, which embraces and advocates for greater gun control measures. While the party plank originally lacked any reference to God (that has since been rectified), it did include a section called “firearms.”
A man fires an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle June 3, 2012 at the St. Croix Rod and Gun Club in Hudson, Wisconsin.Credit: AFP/Getty Images
While the party, at least according to the platform, pledges to honor the Second Amendment, Democrats are calling for some additional regulatory structures, as Miller reported. The gun-related portion of the platform reads:
“We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation. We understand the terrible consequences of gun violence; it serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and our time here is limited and precious.
We believe in an honest, open national conversation about firearms. We can focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and we can work together to enact commonsense improvements – like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole – so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, lawbreaking few.”
While Democrats call reinstating the assault weapons ban “commonsense,” many Republicans would disagree. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, clearly a supporter of gun rights, took a more neutral approach in responding to the Democratic platform, however its views were clear on the matter:
So, we again see the rhetorical pattern of a quick acknowledgement that there is a Second Amendment, followed by the call for reasonable regulation, a few words about the terribleness of gun violence and the need for national debate, a pivot to focusing on effective enforcement of existing laws and then the grand finale of bringing back the “assault weapons ban” and closing the “gun show loophole” with the closing phrase that promises what the just aforementioned strictures would – once again – certainly not accomplish.”
For those enjoying the last week of August and who, as a result, may have missed the Republican National Convention’s approved party plank on the Second Amendment, the contrast with what you just read above will be clear and easy to see. We encourage you to read both platforms and draw your own conclusions before you #gunvote on Election Day.
In the wake of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin and the Colorado movie theatre massacre, the Obama administration made it clear that reinstating the assault weapons ban was something that the president would support. Clearly, this will aggravate individuals who believe that these weapons should continue being available unfettered.
“He does support renewing the assault weapons ban,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said just one day after the temple shooting. “There has been reluctance by Congress to pass that renewal.”
Photo Credit: AP
As for the “gun show loophole,” the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence explains its take on the matter, which appears to frame it as much less controversial than the assault weapons ban proposal:
Unfortunately, current federal law requires criminal background checks only for guns sold through licensed firearm dealers, which account for just 60% of all gun sales in the United States. A loophole in the law allows individuals not “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to sell guns without a license—and without processing any paperwork. That means that two out of every five guns sold in the United States change hands without a background check.
Though commonly referred to as the “Gun Show Loophole,” the “private sales” described above include guns sold at gun shows, through classified newspaper ads, the Internet, and between individuals virtually anywhere.
Unfortunately, only six states (CA, CO, IL, NY, OR, RI) require universal background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows. Three more states (CT, MD, PA) require background checks on all handgun sales made at gun shows. Seven other states (HI, IA, MA, MI, NJ, NC, NE) require purchasers to obtain a permit and undergo a background check before buying a handgun. Florida allows its counties to regulate gun shows by requiring background checks on all firearms purchases at these events. 33 states have taken no action whatsoever to close the Gun Show Loophole.
From 1994 until 2004, there was a ban on certain assault weapons — a regulation that Congress didn’t continue to push. Since then, there have been renewed calls from anti-violence groups to re-instate the ban. Now, the Democrats, led by Obama, appear to be officially jumping on board with this suggestion.