We the People

December 21, 2012 at 7:22 PM 1 comment

A couple of days ago, I signed two petitions on the We the People page, this one, asking the President to support law-abiding gun owners, and another one about not reinstating the federal assault weapons ban, which is no longer on the page. Today, I received this message in my email as, I’m sure, has everyone else who signed the petition:

A Message from President Obama about Your Petition on Reducing Gun Violence

By Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden

In the days since the tragedy in Newtown, Americans from all over the country have called for action to deter mass shootings and reduce gun violence. Hundreds of thousands of you have signed petitions on We the People. I’m writing you today to thank you for speaking up, to update you on an important development, and to encourage you to continue engaging with the White House on this critical issue.


On Wednesday, the President outlined a series of first steps we can take to begin the work of ending this cycle of violence.This is what he said:

“We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. And as I said on Sunday night, there’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence. And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.

But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence.”

Vice President Biden has been asked to work with members of the Administration, Congress, and the general public to come up with a set of concrete policy proposals by next month — proposals the President intends to push swiftly. The President asked the Vice President to lead this effort in part because he wrote and passed the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in America. That bill included the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

As the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, I’m going to do everything I can to ensure we run a process that includes perspectives from all sides of the issue, which is why I wanted to respond to your petition myself. Two decades ago, as domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House, I first worked with Joe Biden as he fought to enact the Crime Bill, the assault weapons ban, and the Brady Bill. I will never forget what a key role the voices of concerned citizens like you played in that vital process.

The President called on Congress to pass important legislation “banning the sale of military-style assault weapons,” “banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips,” and “requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.”

An issue this serious and complex isn’t going to be resolved with a single legislative proposal or policy prescription. And let’s be clear, any action we take will respect the Second Amendment. As the President said:

“Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible — they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.

But you know what, I am also betting that the majority — the vast majority — of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I’m willing to bet that they don’t think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas — that an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone’s criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown — or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.”

The President said it best: “Ultimately if this effort is to succeed it’s going to require the help of the American people — it’s going to require all of you. If we’re going to change things, it’s going to take a wave of Americans — mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals — and, yes, gun owners — standing up and saying ‘enough’ on behalf of our kids.”

So let’s continue this conversation and get something meaningful done. If you have additional ideas and are interested in further engagement with the White House on this issue, please let us know and share your thoughts here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/share-your-thoughts-reducing-gun-violence

Thank you for speaking out and staying involved.

Since I’m not able to keep my mouth shut had meaningful thoughts to add to the discussion, I went to the link above and shared my thoughts regarding reducing gun violence and why reinstating the assault weapons ban would be utterly pointless. This is what I wrote, in case anyone would like ideas regarding what they could submit:

I read thoroughly the response I received in my email regarding the petition I signed, which was a petition to respect the rights of law-abiding firearms owners like myself instead of coming down with a bunch of “gun control” measures as a “quick fix” in response to the tragedy that occurred in Newtown.

Reading the response, I realize that the majority of our law makers do not understand the assault weapons ban, nor what it meant, nor what a “military-style assault weapon” is.

Make no mistake: the AWB has done NOTHING whatsoever to reduce firearms crime in the United States, something that FBI statistics consistently back up. The latest of those was released in 2011 and speaks for itself – less crimes have been committed with rifles of any kind than with shotguns, knives, and fists. Yet lawmakers continue to focus their efforts on “assault weapons.”

The assault weapons ban has done nothing except ban cosmetic features on firearms – which have nothing whatsoever to do with how the weapon functions. In effect, you’re telling law-abiding gun owners they can’t have a weapon that LOOKS scary, even if that weapon functions the exact same way than a weapon that looks less scary. That’s what the AWB did – it banned cosmetic features.

Fact is also, again based on FBI studies, that states and cities with the toughest gun laws, such as California, New York, and Chicago, have the highest gun-related crime and murder rates in the country, whereas states with more relaxed gun laws, such as Virginia, have seen a steady decline in gun-related and general violent crimes. This is not a coincidence – criminals will always be able to obtain firearms and it’s easier for a criminal to use that firearm to commit a crime where he or she knows that their victims are likely to be unarmed – which is true for areas with tough gun laws as well as so-called “gun free” zones. It is no accident that these mass shootings all take place in “gun free” zones, such as school campuses and malls.

The real problem our country is facing is one of mental health. We are too focused on making sure people are “rehabilitated” and “mainstreamed” instead of ensuring that they receive the treatment they need, which may and in some cases should, include institutionalization. We’re too focused on pandering to big pharmaceutical companies and medicating people with substances that can often cause them to become suicidal or homicidal. We’re too focused on placing a stigma on those with mental illness – we label them crazy, weak, damaged, and not worthy of our attention instead of ensuring they will be treated with dignity and will be taken care of.

As an Emergency Medical Technician, I see first-hand the damage that our broken health care system inflicts on people. Many people with mental illness go without treatment or without their medication because they cannot afford it. What’s more, hospitals are now reluctant to admit them as many are “frequent fliers”, requiring ongoing treatment that can often only be obtained through being admitted via the ER. Now that hospitals are being penalized for readmitting patients, these people will receive even less care than they previously have.

Banning firearms because they “look scary” will not fix the problem. It will anger hundreds of thousands and legal firearms owners, such as myself, who own these “assault rifles” for purposes of competitive and recreational shooting, hunting (yes, people do hunt with semi-automatic rifles), and self-defense and it will make no difference whatsoever to the criminals obtaining them illegally.

I ask you to consider just the last two big shootings, the one at Newtown and the one at the mall prior. In both cases, the firearms used in those crimes were legally owned by a person OTHER than the shooter from whom they had been stolen by the criminal who used them on their rampage. Why should law-abiding firearms owners be penalized for the actions of criminals, and why should an area that is such a small problem (less than 2% of all gun crime involves an “assault rifle“) take away the rights of the rest of the population to own these firearms they enjoy?

If you look at the facts and at the actual ban, are informed about what all the terminology means that’s being bandied about, you can not help but come to the conclusion that any proposed firearms bans or restrictions are nothing but a band-aid measure by an administration who wants to be seen as “doing something” but doesn’t want to tackle the real, serious, difficult issue of mental health and medical care in this country. Instead, you are choosing to pander to a small group of people opposed to firearms ownership of any kind, who are as vocal as they are uninformed.

I hope that you do the right thing.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. John Thomas  |  January 4, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    It is as important to do the right thing here as it is to prescribe and administer the correct medication. There is a reason my mother hid the aspirin from my dad when he complained of headaches after his stroke.

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