Thursday, October 18, 2012

Presidential Candidates Finally Debate On Gun Control

I've been annoyed by the fact that not one single question about gun violence came up in the first presidential debate or in the vice-presidential debate.  You would think that 100,000 shootings a year, 33,000 of which are lethal, would be enough for at least one question, right?  It's a very serious national health issue that even eclipses death by car accident in 11 states and Washington D.C.  You'd think something like that might warrant a plan, right?

But Tuesday's presidential debate, at least, had one question on the issue:

"President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?"

HERE is a complete transcript of the candidates' responses.

Below is a video clip of their answers:

In short, the President came out in support of reinstating some version of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was allowed to expire in 2004.  He also voiced support for enforcing existing laws, while also strengthening background checks and mental health reporting to the background check system.
So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve
already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of
criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes
to enforcement. 
But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for
soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m
trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce
the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault
weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other
sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago,
there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s.
They’re using cheap hand guns.

He then also backed that up by suggesting better childhood education to create more opportunity for youth, as well as working more with community faith groups and law enforcement.

Fair enough, and I'm happy to hear it.  This is a reasonable response.  Back in July he had made a similar statement, including support for reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban and strengthening background checks, during a speech to the Urban League in New Orleans.  Good news for the President, laws are already being introduced on Capitol Hill to do exactly that, including the "Fix Gun Checks Act" (S436).

Romney, on the other hand, stated that he wanted to see no further changes in gun regulation or bans on any guns whatsoever, except for adding that he wants to enforce existing gun laws:

Yeah, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on
– on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We,
of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already
illegal in this country to have automatic weapons. What I believe is
we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his
remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun
laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have.

In other words, Romney is just fine with 100,000 shootings a year and 33,000 deaths by gunfire

And as the remark about wanting to "enforce the gun laws that we have," I should point out that law enforcement is already doing this to the fullest extent they can, and that neither he, nor any other pro-gun legislator or leader who utters those words, can seem to think of any instances where gun laws aren't being enforced (in fact, Romney's benefactor, the NRA, and other organizations are constantly tearing down those laws instead of advocating for them).  This is a position that Romney has recently stated, despite the fact that, as governor, Romney was very much for stronger gun control legislation, including putting in place a permanent ban on assault rifles in his state, something which Obama was quick to point out as an example of Romney's many flip-flops on issues.

Romney then went a bit off the deep end by strangely blaming gun violence on single mothers and then throwing a red herring by bringing up the Fast and Furious debacle (which had nothing to do with the Assault Weapons Ban and was responsible for killing exactly one American).

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the talk from both candidates "gibberish":

"Polls show that more than 80 percent of Americans and more than 80 percent of gun owners support some common sense reforms that are bipartisan." 
"And then they had all this gibberish talking about education. That education is the solution to stop the killing. My recollection is that the Aurora theater shooter? He was a PhD candidate. Ok? The Virgina Tech massacre was committed by a student at a first class university! Gun are a plague and I don't think education is going to keep guns out of the hands of gang members. The solution is to prevent all people who shouldn't have guns from getting them." 
"Let's get serious," he went on later in his lengthy answer, "these are people who have guns, and the only reason to carry a gun is to use it. To kill people. People who buy assault weapons... Governor Romney signed an assault weapon ban, today he has changed his mind. The President campaigned four years ago that he was going introduce a bill to ban assault weapons, the bill never saw the light of day. Romney said 'oh, well, automatic weapons are already banned.' And yes it is true, machine guns are banned. But a semi-automatic weapon, which is what an AK-47 is, that is not banned. And you can pull a trigger awful fast." 
"One candidate has had four years to do something and hasn't. And the other candidate says he won't even do what he once did!"

In the end, I'm encouraged by President Obama's words.  But I'm not holding my breath.  Actions speak louder than words, and so far that's all the President has done to strengthen gun regulation.  We need to do more to demand a plan from our presidential candidates.

ADDENDUMA related article by Andy Pelosi, director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence and The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, from

ADDENDUMA related blog post over at Common Gunsense.

ADDENDUM: Another article focusing on Romney's bogus accusation that gun violence is caused in large part by single parenting.