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At war with guns

Melvin B. Miller
At war with guns
“Every time they start talking about gun control our sales soar!” (Photo: Dan Drew)

Many Americans seem to be terrified by the challenge of confronting life’s exigencies without a firearm being readily at hand. Efforts to regulate the sale of guns often are viewed as an infringement of the Second Amendment that threatens to violate the constitutional right to bear arms. Conservatives were generally unenthusiastic about President Obama’s recent proposals to enforce existing gun restrictions more rigorously.

Despite their fear of being disarmed by governmental decree, Republicans still support the policy of expanded background checks on those buying guns. In December, Quinnipiac University conducted an opinion poll on that issue. As expected, Democrats had the highest support for expanded background checks with 95 percent in favor. Surprisingly, 87 percent of Republicans polled also supported that policy.

However, a broader statement of the issue revealed a distinct difference of opinion. The results were quite different in a December CNN poll when the question was, “Do you support stricter gun control laws?” Only about half of the respondents supported that idea. In recent surveys only about 23 percent of the Republicans favored a stronger gun policy.

The lack of Republican support on the issue creates a severe political problem for Obama. The constitutional division of authority between Congress and the president forces him to muster Republican commitment. Any suggestion Obama might make ultimately requires spending public funds, and only Congress can authorize that. In order to generate public interest in the issue, Obama had to publicize the most dramatic incidents of gun violence.

The problem with that approach is that it gave the appearance of being overly dramatic. The incidents were indeed worthy of publicity, but if the issue was the number of gun murders, then mass murders do not have the highest death rate, and while too numerous, they are still substantially less frequent than the daily gangbang shootings in most major cities.

There were 20 first grade pupils killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School invasion in 2012, and nine parishioners were shot to death last year by Dylann Roof in the Charleston, S.C. church. More recently, 14 people died in the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. The whole nation grieved after every one of those massacres. Unfortunately, few people give much thought to the large number of blacks who are gunned down daily on our city streets.

While blacks constitute only 15 percent of the nation’s population, firearm deaths for blacks are twice as high as the rate for whites, according to Newsweek. The tenuous gun control laws make it easy for young blacks to obtain guns. And their involvement in the drug traffic makes it necessary for gangbangers to be armed to protect their sanctioned drug territories. The projected number of youths with guns will vary from city to city.

As Obama tries to reform the situation with a more rigorous control of the existing gun laws, it is important for citizens to understand more clearly what is at stake. Of course it is important to make a Sandy Hook, Charleston or a San Bernardino less likely in the future. But far more menacing to the tranquility of society is the daily gunfire that results from the easy availability of firearms in most major cities.

Conservatives tolerate the nation’s horrific gun violence in order not to jeopardize their right to amass substantial personal arsenals. Stricter gun laws might disrupt the conservatives’ plans. America has become a nation at war with itself.