In the current push to use the Newtown, Conn. school shooting as an excuse to enact draconian gun bans, gun and ammunition control, registration and universal background checks, gun control advocates have engaged in a series of missteps and overreach that have hurt their chances of getting any new national legislation.
Private gun sales is perhaps the most important of the issues that gun control proponents have boggled. Americans cherish their freedom to buy and sell goods freely. They can become quite snippety about being told they cannot sell a gun privately to a friend, or to a relative, or transfer the gun as a gift to a son or daughter.
Yet early on in the raging debate, it appeared that a few Republicans and the NRA would give up on private gun sales as a means of compromise with Senate and House Democrats, the White House, and other gun control proponents. This brought forth howls of protest from various gun rights groups who demanded that politicians lay off of one of the most cherished staples of American freedom -- the freedom to buy and sell goods privately between citizens without cumbersome government regulation.
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who appeared on "Fox News Sunday" this morning, seemed to signal that universal background checks, and by extension private gun sales, would be difficult if not impossible to pass in Congress, even in the current climate.
LaPierre stated that the NRA had been attempting to get Congress to pass universal background checks for 20 years, but there is vast resistance not only among the populace but among politicians to create the national database that such a system would entail. Current law forbids a centralized database of gun owners.
Another roadblock to universal background checks is the resistance of the mental health lobby to entering the names of persons with mental illness into a national database. Privacy issues prevent such a database from being created.
Privacy is also a sticking point in the suggestion that all citizens who buy guns, even those who make private purchases, be entered into a national database. Citizens are adamant that it is no one's business, especially not government's, if they buy or sell firearms privately.
Gun rights advocacy groups further warn that in the move to keep tighter tabs on the mentally ill as a means of reducing mass shootings it is important to differentiate between common emotional maladies that are easily treated from severe mental illness that manifests itself in instability, volatility, and intent to do harm to one's self or others.
Activists say that simple depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress, or obsessive-compulsive conditions do not qualify a patient as "mentally ill." The term "mentally ill" usually refers to those with chronic, severe forms of emotional disturbance, such as psychosis, sociopathic behavior, and schizophrenia.
These distinctions are vital in order to stem any attempt by government to issue a blanket declaration that anyone who has been treated for any common emotional disorder be barred from owning a gun.
Yet in spite of these seemingly insurmountable problems faced by gun control advocates, gun rights groups warn that continued vigilance is vital, given that the debate is far from over in Congress and the president is taking his gun ban message on the road this week.
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