Two days ago, president Obama laid out a new set of orders that he has issued on gun control. Here are the details of the measures. Since Congress is largely the captive of the NRA and refuses to countenance imposing even the slightest restrictions on gun availability, he has decided to implement them using executive orders. Although the measures are modest and reasonable, as could have been predicted, Republicans, the gun lobby, and others who think that there should be no restrictions at all are having a fit and denouncing Obama’s executive orders as more signs of his dictatorial tendencies and the first step in a plan to strip all Americans of their guns.
Other more measured responses point out that these new measures would not have prevented the recent mass killers from obtaining the weapons they needed to commit their atrocities and that hence these actions are largely political theater. That is not the complete story. These measures may not have prevented the recent mass killings and definitely will not stop all gun violence but will help to reduce the overall number of gun deaths.
But given that these actions will have limited effect, why is Obama doing this with great fanfare?
What I think is happening is that this is less of a major attempt to prevent guns falling into wrong hand and more the beginning of an assault on the NRA’s power and its air of seeming invincibility. While the majority of Americans favor increased background checks on gun purchasers and that the laws covering the sale of firearms be made more strict, the NRA is opposed to any such measures and they have cowed Republicans and most members of Congress into thinking that if they support any gun control measures at all, the NRA has the power to defeat them at the next elections.
What yesterday’s moves suggest is that Obama is calling that bluff and throwing down the gauntlet to the NRA and explicitly said so in his press briefing.
So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies. All of us need to stand up and protect its citizens. All of us need to demand governors and legislatures and businesses do their part to make our communities safer. We need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better. (Applause.)
And we need voters who want safer gun laws, and who are disappointed in leaders who stand in their way, to remember come election time. (Applause.)
I mean, some of this is just simple math. Yes, the gun lobby is loud and it is organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody, any time. Well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate. We have to be just as organized in defense of our kids. This is not that complicated. The reason Congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections. And if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws, they’ll change course, I promise you. (Applause)
The NRA is undoubtedly a powerful lobby and has become a menace to the general welfare. It must be defeated or at least its reputation for being able to take down any opponent has to be dented. It is interesting that Democrats seem to be choosing to aggressively run on this anti-NRA platform.
Yet at the beginning of a year that Democrats hope will end with Hillary Clinton’s election as president and their party winning back control of the Senate, the party believes Obama’s actions will help it send the political message that Republicans are blocking common-sense reforms that would reduce the number of mass killings in the country.
“If you’re a Democratic congressional candidate running in the House or Senate, it makes a great argument about how unresponsive Congress is and how beholden Congress is to special interest groups like the [National Rifle Association],” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.
Party strategists believe a seemingly ever-escalating spate of mass shootings in recent years has shifted the politics of the issue.
But as a test of the NRA’s strength will depend on whether this is a strong enough single-issue to be the major factor sway people in how they vote or whether it will be one among many.