Obama gun-control effort: 'Turning point' or 'tyranny'?

FILE - In a Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 file photo, gun owners discuss a potential sale of an AR-15, during the 2013 Rocky Mountain Gun Show at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah. Nearly six in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws in the aftermath of last month's deadly school shooting in Connecticut, with majorities favoring a nationwide ban on military-style, rapid-fire weapons and limits on gun violence depicted in video games and movies and on TV, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. A lopsided 84 percent of adults would like to see the establishment of a federal standard for background checks for people buying guns at gun shows, the poll showed. President Barack Obama was set Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 to unveil a wide-ranging package of steps for reducing gun violence expected to include a proposed ban on assault weapons, limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines and universal background checks for gun sales.(AP Photo/The Deseret News, Ben Brewer, File) NO SALES; MAGS OUT; SALT LAKE TRIBINE OUT; PROVO DAILY HERALD OUT
FILE - In a Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 file photo, gun owners discuss a potential sale of an AR-15, during the 2013 Rocky Mountain Gun Show at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah. Nearly six in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws in the aftermath of last month's deadly school shooting in Connecticut, with majorities favoring a nationwide ban on military-style, rapid-fire weapons and limits on gun violence depicted in video games and movies and on TV, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. A lopsided 84 percent of adults would like to see the establishment of a federal standard for background checks for people buying guns at gun shows, the poll showed. President Barack Obama was set Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 to unveil a wide-ranging package of steps for reducing gun violence expected to include a proposed ban on assault weapons, limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines and universal background checks for gun sales.(AP Photo/The Deseret News, Ben Brewer, File) NO SALES; MAGS OUT; SALT LAKE TRIBINE OUT; PROVO DAILY HERALD OUT (Ben Brewer)
Posted: January 18, 2013

WITH A BOLD STROKE of his pen, flanked by four young children who'd written letters pleading for action to stop mass killings, President Obama on Wednesday signed a series of sweeping orders and proposed new laws intended to curb gun violence in what one TV pundit, CBS' Bob Schieffer, hailed as a positive "turning point" in American politics.

Or as Fox Radio's Todd Starnes described it: "Freedom ends. Tyranny begins."

The nation's sharp political divide on the gun issue pits a majority of Americans who support restrictions on high-capacity magazines that have been used by mass shooters and stricter background checks, against a vocal minority who sees any move on firearms as the moral equivalent of Fort Sumter. The gulf between pro- and anti-gun forces is arguably even more striking than the measures proposed or mandated by Obama, the biggest push on gun violence in 45 years.

The problem in getting the legislative part of the president's gun program - most notably, a renewed and stronger ban on assault rifles - through a divided Congress was driven home by a testy war of words Wednesday between Mayor Nutter, who was in D.C. for a legislative gun hearing, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a GOP rising star.

Rubio said in a statement that "President Obama's frustration with our republic and the way it works doesn't give him license to ignore the Constitution."

In response, Nutter told reporters from The Hill newspaper: "If the gentleman just wants to be opposed just because he wants to be opposed, I generally don't argue with people who engage in that kind of irresponsible behavior."

So what's all the shouting about?

* Obama signed 23 executive orders that don't require the backing of lawmakers - ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.

* He called for improvements in school safety, including putting 1,000 police officers in schools and bolstering mental-health care by training more health professionals to deal with young people who may be at risk - all part of a $500 million program.

* He proposed more ambitious measures that will need the OK of Congress - highly uncertain in the current climate - including universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

"Gun-control advocates are ecstatic today," Adam Winkler, UCLA law professor and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America, said in a phone interview. He said that those wanting tougher gun restrictions have been waiting nearly two decades for such an announcement. "In [Obama's] last term, you would mention the word 'gun' and he would hide under the table."

Validating Winkler's remark was a pleased Shira Goodman, executive director of the anti-gun-violence group CeasefirePA, who said that proposals such as tighter background checks "make a whole lot of sense to a lot of people." She said that her only small regret was that there weren't more incentives for states such as Pennsylvania to address a huge lag in entering mental-health records into the federal database.

Not so delighted were callers to local talk radio, who tend to be more conservative. Host Dom Giordano, of WPHT (1210-AM), said in an email that "I really don't like the President using four kids as props on this." He added: "I don't like the 23 executive orders. I'm not going to act irresponsibly and call it the end of our liberty."


On Twitter: @Will_Bunch

Blog: Attytood.com

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