Gun Control – An Issue for our Times
The recent media footage of the destruction of innocent, young lives re-ignites the gun reform debate again, and what we as a community can do to prevent another tragedy. The outpourings of grief and horror are becoming all too frequent in our society. What has gone wrong? Why do human beings feel the need to express their anger and disappointment with their lives by resorting to such extreme violence? The ramifications of easily accessible firearms are like opening a Pandora’s Box. If the owner is mentally stable, then the likelihood of the devastating consequences such as those we have been witness to in Newtown Connecticut, is small. However, if someone who is unstable, and who is unlikely to take responsibility for their actions, has easy access to high powered firearms, the likely consequences can be more readily predicted.
In Australia, the Port Arthur massacre was the turning point for gun reform laws. Ownership of weapons is now subject to far stricter controls and legislation. The United States of America is a different matter with a population of 314,947,000 making it a far more difficult and complex issue to grapple with. The massive gun control lobby has far reaching influences across the States. In their Constitution ‘the right to bear arms’ acts like a mantra to much of the population. President Obama will have an enormous battle on his hands if he attempts to change the Constitution and enforce stricter gun laws. Americans, supported by the National Rifle Association and its 4.3 million members continue to display a fierce, almost obsessive affinity for weapons.
Why is it that the pro gun lobby and anti gun lobby have so much difficulty in coming together in a logical and sensible way to discuss this issue? It is highly emotive, and naturally enough, emotions run high. Gun owners believe it is their right to be able to have weapons for recreational purposes and to defend themselves, if and when the situation occurs. The remaining populace believe that this should not be the case, because of the unknown factor of a person’s mental faculties, and the ease with which these dangerous weapons, in the hands of the wrong person, can inflict such damage and bloodshed. Somewhere, in the midst of all this, is another cross-section of the community who are largely ambivalent.
Canada on the other hand, has gun laws that are far more stringent than the United States. At least two references are required for any potential gun owner, and their knowledge and understanding of that person has to have been apparent for a minimum of three years. Confirmation that a new owner is not likely to be a menace to society is also a prerequisite, along with a thorough background check. A minimum waiting period of 28 days is standard before any firearm is registered and the transaction approved. In contrast to these rules and regulations, the State of Connecticut, which was the latest example of a firearm tragedy, has only a 14 day waiting period before completing a firearm purchase. Under Federal Law, any individual who is considered mentally defective, convicted of a felony, or misdemeanours will be refused gun ownership.
If the United States of America was successful in changing their Constitution, the probability of these horrendous violent acts would hopefully be diminished considerably. If gun owners had to register each weapon, have them safely stored in an appropriate gun cabinet, and were only allowed for farmers and those who need them in the course of their employment or are members of recognised sporting shooters clubs; society would be very different. Everybody is accountable for their actions, and unfortunately, these types of atrocities happen when the person using their weapon does not feel any social responsibility, is unable to deal with their anger and frustration in a non-violent manner, or is mentally unstable.
The voting power of the massive U.S. gun lobby is huge. It goes without saying that they would not be voting for Obama, if extensive tightening of gun laws takes place across the United States. The President will be under enormous pressure to start making gun law reforms, not just express condolences and shock at what has transpired during the most recent firearm massacre, at Newtown, Connecticut. One of the facets of gun law reform would be to police and ban any form of private advertising and sale of weapons. This will be hard to enforce, but there may be ways and means of putting strategies in place to prevent just anybody and everybody from being able to purchase guns without testing their credibility as a responsible owner. The power to make constructive changes to gun law reform is now in the hands of the President of the United States and those who believe that enough is really enough!