During last night’s “Guns in America” town hall debate hosted by CNN, President Obama was forced to answer some tough questions regarding gun control, both from anti-gun control citizens and host Anderson Cooper.
While Obama was authentic and convincingly responsive to certain questions, such as his purported overarching “conspiracy” to take away everyone’s guns during this last year of his term, other responses were a bit scant on actual statistics and digressive to the specific questions asked by individuals who oppose his new gun control policies.
Obama may have relied more on anecdotal evidence and appeals to pathos to make his points, but there are actual, concrete answers we can give that debunk most of the pro-gun rhetoric regurgitated last night.
The claims made the gun enthusiasts are nothing new. They include the same warped logic that is continuously repeated; unfortunately, the President did not adequately shut down these lines of thinking.
Cooper began by asking Obama to respond to the claims that he has previously shown support for Australia’s attitude toward guns, which makes conservatives nervous that he would like to follow suit and completely ban guns in America. Obama only said that gun sales have not declined during his presidency, but there is a two-pronged answer that might have been more convincing:
1) Unlike Australia, the Second Amendment of the United States protects gun ownership, so despite any personal feelings they suspect the President may have regarding a complete ban of guns, this would be impossible for him to accomplish.
2) What can be gleaned from Australia has less to do with their specific policies and more to the fact that their government chose to act immediately and do something—and it has been incredibly effective in eliminating their mass shootings (Australia has had none in 20 years).
Criminals Don't Follow Laws
The second major criticism Cooper brought up was the notion that these new mandates will have no effect on the criminals who purchase guns illegally. This is an argument gun nuts love to constantly bring up, but it is majorly flawed. It implies that if there is not 100 percent compliance with a law, there is no point in creating it at all (most conservatives support strong drug laws, yet if, according to their logic, no illegal drug users will actually follow these laws, why create them?). And, in fact, background checks do stop criminals—since the Brady law came into existence in 1984, over 2.4 million criminals have been prevented from purchasing guns. Increased comprehensive background checks would most likely increase this number.
This reinforces Obama’s repeated point that his new policies will not eliminate gun violence—but if they can help lessen it, even a little bit, they are worth implementing.
Only Good Guys With Guns Can Stop Bad Guys With Guns
Kimberly Corban, a victim of rape who now staunchly supports gun ownership, spoke out, primarily stating that she opposes the “restrictions” imposed by Obama’s new ideas, and that as someone who has been victimized, she wants the right to defend herself.
Firstly, these new mandates do not in any way restrict responsible gun owners from continuing to own and purchase guns. But more importantly, her logic speaks to the entrenched idea that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun—which is blatantly misleading. A report by the FBI in 2014 revealed that a mere 3 percent of shootings are prevented by armed civilians; during a surprise attack, the likelihood of being able to adequately defend yourself, even if you do own a gun, is shockingly small. (The Daily Show, through satire, recently made the same point).
Additionally, having a gun in a household actually increases risk of both homicide and suicide, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology (Obama alluded to this, though without actual statistics). Although you certainly have a right to want to defend yourself, this notion of increased safety is only predicated on fantasy, not facts.
These New Policies Wouldn't Have Prevented Mass Shootings
A Sheriff from Arizona asked a question many people were interested in hearing actually answered: Would these new laws have prevented any of the previous mass shootings?
Though Obama did not explicitly state this, the answer is largely yes. According to The New York Times, a majority of the mass shooters purchased their guns legally, and individuals such as John R. Houser (Lafayette), Dylann Roof (Charleston), Ivan Antonio Lopez (Fort Hood), Aaron Alexis (Washington Navy Yard), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook), James E. Holmes (Aurora), and Jared L. Loughner (Touscon) all either had mental health issues or criminal histories that should have been caught by background checks. Collectively, these people killed 71 individuals, including children, and wounded over 100. Increased extensive background checks could have potentially prevented these tragedies, and if properly enforced now, could prevent future such tragedies.
President Obama is definitively taking a progressive step forward in enacting gun reform—and despite the skeptics, his new policies, though modest, will hopefully begin to shape an America with decreasing gun violence.
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