President Obama is set to announce executive actions later today that will aim to expand background checks for some firearm purchases and step up federal enforcement of the nation’s gun laws.
What this essentially amounts to is a watered down, messy version of the legislation that Obama sought after Sandy Hook, which would have completely closed the loopholes that currently allow millions of guns sold online or at gun shows to be sold without background checks. As it stands, this action will have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) contacting gun sellers and informing them of the new standards defining who will now be considered a ‘regulated’ dealer, and therefore who legally has to carry out background checks before a sale. The exemptions for ‘hobbyists and collectors’ will remain.
In all honesty, it seems a hazy affair — with things like business cards, original gun packaging, and websites being used as demarcation criteria; and no actual set number being put on the amount of guns that would turn you into a ‘dealer’ should you choose to offload some light artillery to a friend in exchange for money. Emphasis seems to be on online retailers, where more and more of the gun buyin’ is going on these days. Correspondingly, plans for an online system for background checks will also be announced; as will the need for 200 additional agents in the ATF.
After a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Obama said: ‘Over the next several days we’ll be rolling out these initiatives, we’ll be making sure that people have a very clear understanding of what can make a difference and what we can do.’
And also — of course — the relevant Tweet:
The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage, but they can't hold America hostage. We can't accept this carnage in our communities.— President Obama (@POTUS) January 4, 2016
The New York Times reports:
Mr. Obama will hire more personnel to process background checks in a timely manner, direct officials to conduct more gun research, improve the information in the background check system, encourage more domestic violence prosecutions and order better tracking of lost guns. He will also make it easier for states to provide mental health information to the background check system, which could bar a gun sale.
Now, despite the fact that the changes seem to be somewhat ill-defined, and perhaps a little bit toothless, any movement in this direction is a Good Fucking Thing.
Unless you ask some people that is.
Mr Trump? ‘Pretty soon, you won’t be able to get guns. I mean, it’s another step in the way of not getting guns.’ Hmm. Nope, that’s not what this is at all, but thanks for your input.
Obama’s move will, of course, be resisted tooth and nail by certain groups. Not mentioning any names, but House Speaker, Paul Ryan, also had an opinion: “This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, and the country will not stand for it.” White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, did say that he feels ‘confident in telling you now that what the president does announce will be the kinds of actions in which we have confidence that they are within the legal ability of the United States to carry out these actions.” So, (aside from that being one of the worst constructed sentences I think I’ve ever read) this should be interesting to watch unfold, whatever the case!
Except it shouldn’t be interesting, really, should it? It shouldn’t be a partisan circus, with clapping and jeering and colour clashing. No, something should just get fucking done.
Because Congress is so completely useless when it comes to legislative consensus on this quintessentially American issue, and it apparently doesn’t matter to it that ‘Americans with guns’ is now challenging the almighty ‘cars’ for the number one position in the non-health-related-cause-of-death-for-Americans stakes. Or maybe we’re all seeing it wrong and ‘1,052 mass shootings in 1,066 days’ is a perfectly healthy statistic?
It’s tough to say. I don’t live in the States, so all I can assure you of is that the rest of the world? We see you sorta like this:
And when an Onion headline sums things up better than anything else? Well, we’re just worried about you. Genuinely.
I mean, this wasn’t exactly always the case, sure. You weren’t always alone in this. For example, the deadliest shooting in Australia’s history happened comparatively recently — only 20 years ago, when a man walked into a cafe in Tasmania and murdered 35 people and wounded 23 others using a semiautomatic rifle.
But you know what Australia did then? They straight up banned certain semiautomatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns. They also begun to require all firearm-license applicants to show a ‘genuine reason’ for owning a gun, which didn’t include ‘self-defense’. And on top of all that they also enforced a buyback programme, getting rid of around 700,000 guns — which, scaled up to your giant country, is the equivalent to about 40 million. You know what effect these measures had: a complete plummeting of gun deaths and suicides.
Now I know, I know: even though you have a sorta similar federal system to them, you’re not Australia. You’re much bigger and overall more urban-based than Oz for a start; you have that all-powerful amendment of yours, and that lovely organisation who just love guns, and who are very good at lobbying. But no-one’s asking you to throw all of your boomsticks into the nearest incinerator-bin.
Well, maybe this guy is:
And maybe we all secretly agree with him. But that’s neither here nor there right now.
Because no-one’s suggesting that your Congress might be an ineffectual quagmire of vested interests and bought-for representatives.
Or that Obama’s move here is not just an end-of-term legacy tactic.
Or even that it will solve everything.
But, you know, it is something.
Which — and I’ve never been that great at maths so I may be wrong here — is more than nothing.