President Barack Obama has now announced his landmark 23 Executive Orders and proposal to Congress for gun restriction and gun control. This has been based on the 220 discussions that VP Biden held over 3 weeks since the Sandy Hook shootings and in response to the emotional needs of the nation. The total price tag is estimated to be $500 million, funds that do not exist in the budget (not that there is a budget in place since 2009) and fly in the face of debt ceiling and reduction concerns that are poised to shut down the government somewhere between mid-February and early March 2013. The only question to ask is if it is worth it?
To get to the answer we must first understand the process that led to the proposal and Executive Orders.
Almost immediately after the Sandy Hook shootings, President Obama tasked VP Biden with determining the options available to ensure greater safety for the public in general and the youth of the nation more directly. The concept was for legislation that was not partisan in nature, and that could make a lasting impact on gun violence. Reality is rarely akin to political Endeavour, this was no different.
President Biden spent 3 weeks on the project. Without knowing the exact details, to be fair, we will provide the VP with a bit of fortitude and latitude, he spent 6 days a week - 5 for his "research" and 1 day for all other duties. We will also graciously state that each of the 5 hour days were 10 hours long, without interruption or break. This a total of 150 hours that were dedicated to coming up with a solution to the issue of gun violence, and more specifically mass shootings that have plagued the nation going back more than 30 years at least.
With this schedule in mind, VP Biden spoke to 220 organizations in those 150 hours. On average each organization would have gotten about 40.9 minutes to address the problem and present its solution. That's a detailed answer to a 30 year problem in 40 minutes including walking into the door and exiting so the next group can shuffle in for their presentation. Then at the end of that span of 3 weeks, without collating the data, further research of ideas or other study, VP Biden presented the top ideas to President Obama who within 24 hours turned around with his Orders and plan.
Reality thus states that multiple groups were met with at once, many groups had no say in the discussions, and a clear pre-determined set of objectives were already in mind and being developed long before the conclusion of "research". In essence, the Obama Administration has an objective in place and needed justification to act on it. The fact that most of the ideas were simply liberal gun restriction hopes that have never been close to being made into law, probably would be called coincidence by the Obama Administration. Confirmation was evident when, during the process, VP Biden announced that Executive Orders would be needed to change gun control in America - how could he conclude that without finishing his "research" and debating the proposals offered to him?
Thus we get the announcement from President Obama, with a price tag of $500 million that comes from where? While not exorbitant by Government spending standards, the current major debate in the nation is where and how much to slow spending (not cut, slow future spending, that's the issue both sides are debating). In one scenario, a good chunk of the higher taxes just enacted this year went to just this alone, helping to eradicate any projected long-term savings further. But that's for an article on economics.
Essentially the Order and plan break down into the following:
- increase access to and dissemination of background checks
- restrict gun ownership
- find ways to reduce and prevent gun violence (what was VP Biden supposed to be doing?)
- restrict guns and magazines
So let's start at the top.
1) To increase background checks, President Obama has authorized creation, collection, and dissemination of data on gun owners and those that desire gun ownership. Ranging from doctors to teachers to law enforcement, each has expanded power to question, evaluate, and document gun owners and applicants - as well as those that could potentially misuse a gun. Potentially a great idea.
Reality time. Why does a doctor need to know (assuming there is no medical relevance to the question) if you own a gun? How is a teacher supposed to react to a child of a gun owner? Assuming the above find out you own a gun, who do they tell and how is that data disseminated, and whom to? Does this mean that too many parking tickets, or an odd last name, or any other bias can place you on a list of undesirables to own a gun, and if not how would you know?
Better question, forgetting the above, government must grow for people to collect, organize and disseminate the data. Law enforcement must grow to enforce the Orders and proposals. Government grows and gets more powerful, while the law abiding public become weaker. Don't forget this all has to be paid for somehow.
Still, this does slow down access to illegal gun sales. It does not stop it but it does impede the process, once an effective system is in place - which can take an unknown amount of time to create and effectively run. Until that time, only those lawfully owning and seeking gun ownership are generally effected.
2) Assault ban. Don't like the weapon, stop law abiding people from having it. Of course criminals don't follow the law. While this may restrict some from getting specific guns, it does NOT prevent the attaining or use of the banned weapons or weapons in general.
Reality with numbers. As has been stated in our other articles (NRA solution as bad as gun restrictions, Gun violence: Is a ban the answer? Part 1 – just the facts, How rampant are mass shootings?) some 11,493 people are killed via gun homicide each year. That number includes gangs, drugs, civilian murder, and mass shootings. On average, there are 20 mass shootings per year, killing 100 people per year, on average for the past 30 years. That includes the time before the last gun ban, during, and after. There was no meaningful difference in data over time, just in snapshots of time, which is meaningless. In total, mass shootings - which is the point of the rush to pass legislation - account for .87% of all gun homicides in a year on average (the decimal is NOT a typo).
Going by a comprehensive, if a bit altered, collection of data from Mother Jones only 25% of all mass shootings are with assault class weapons. Thus in any one year, on average, an assault weapon ban that is exactly as effective as some hope it to be, would end .2% of all gun homicides in a year. That's about 25 people out of 11,493. Feel safer?
At the same time, law abiding gun owners will have less tools to defend their homes. While an assault weapon is overkill for that, it is one less tool - though criminals and the mentally deranged are not equally restricted.
3) Research. Not like the whirlwind justification of predetermined conclusions enacted by VP Biden, but real research. It's a slow process, if it's to be done accurately, and needed.
4) Back to point #2 above. Add to that magazine control. Given that there is no logical civilian need for a 30-round magazine for a pistol, nor a 50-round drum for assault weapons. At the same time, limiting rounds to 10-round magazines does little to prevent a murder spree. The time to change a magazine is a second or 2 in even unpracticed hands. Realistically the time to counter a villain with multiple weapons, or even a single weapon and multiple magazines is only marginally improved by limiting magazine size. This is essentially a superficial and emotional band-aid, with almost no practical application.
But again, there is really no counter argument for high capacity magazines outside of the Sudan or Middle East. Also again, criminals don't follow the law and the mentally unstable may not even comprehend law. It can have some impact but it does not stop a Timothy McVeigh, Columbine, Binghamton American Civic Center, or even Taft High School shootings.
So at the end of the day what is the result?
There are the seeds for some real progress on gun control - keeping more guns out of the hands of criminals and those that present a danger to society. Limiting magazine size, and preventing the sale of armor piercing rounds could theoretically improve chances of ending mass shootings early.
Entangled in those seeds are proposals that limit gun owners and future potential owners. The predominance of the Executive Orders and proposal to Congress is focus on law abiding gun owners. Even if enacted to perfection, which any government is functionally incapable of, the result is marginal improvements with the inability to prevent any mass shooting of almost any nature. In fact it largely ignores almost the entirety if mass shootings to focus on a relative minority, with a hoped for success rate that is virtually meaningless to the annual outcome.
For this we will spend $500 million, to start - there is nothing the government does that will not cost more money in future years than today. In addition we sow the seeds to weaken the 2nd Amendment, as law abiding citizens are the ultimate impact group of the totality of legislation.
Does that sound like it's a solution that everyone wants? Does it even sound close?