There is something happening with the debate over guns in this country. It seems to me that people on both sides have stopped listening. They have entrenched and, excuse the pun, started readying for battle. That, in my opinion, is a recipe for further division, despair and anger. This country doesn’t need any more of that right now.
The gun issue is a very sensitive and personal one for many Americans, which will always be the case when talking about constitutional rights. If a person can name the amendment that guarantees a freedom, chances are they really care about it. Can you tell me what the 17th Amendment details? I had to look it up, but I bet there are 100 people here in Washington, DC, who can recite it word for word.
Still, there is an overwhelming fear that I keep hearing on the airwaves that “the government is going to take my guns”. I put much of the blame for that mistaken belief on the mainstream media. I watched the network coverage and read much of what was written in the newspapers the day President Barack Obama announced his “gun control plan”. I didn’t see anyone describe it as anything other than a “ban on assault weapons”. It isn’t. It wasn’t until the next day that a reporter in the White House briefing asked which guns would be banned.
Here is the bottom line: the assault weapons ban that is being proposed by the president and Senator Diane Feinstein does not “go after the guns”. To use a quote from the senator’s press release, “the assault weapons ban includes a grandfather clause that specifically exempts all assault weapons lawfully possessed at the date of enactment from the ban”. Of course that isn’t the lead line. The beginning of the release stresses “the bill bans dangerous military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of holding more than 10 rounds”.
It seems to me the politicians are trying to have it both ways. To their outraged constituents the message is, “I’m angry about Newtown too and I’m doing something about it”, referring to the Connecticut school massacre in December. To the people in their states or districts that own guns, the message is “I don’t want yours”.
To be clear, this law will try to ban, by their count, about 157 types of guns from being sold or imported. It does nothing for the assault weapons that are owned right now or that will be manufactured in the coming months as the legislation is debated. There are an estimated 3 million assault weapons currently owned in this country. Senator Feinstein told the press the idea is to diminish assault weapons over time. I don't know if she added, but guns don't biodegrade so we are likely talking more than a hundred years.
I believe that politicians should tell Americans exactly what they are trying to do. They shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways. In order for them to be held to account, the journalists need to understand the legislation enough to ask about it. This is not about the 10 additional seconds of precious TV time it would take to actually explain what this ban is — a fact this important should not be cut for time. It is an important point and the absence of a clear description has created unnecessary fear and helped paralyse the discussion. Perhaps that is what the interest groups on both sides of the issue are hoping for. Americans should demand better. It is an important debate, one that people should discuss honestly and with all the facts.