Minden Press-Herald

Tuesday
Sep 30th

The Opening Salvo

The safety's off and debate over President Barak Obama's shotgun proposals to effect stricter gun control in this country is now headed for debate in a Congress which seems to have difficulty dealing with any major issue.

On Wednesday, the president announced his intentions to ask Congress to pass legislation which would address a ban on assault weapons, limit the capacity of ammunition magazines, ban the import and possession of armor-piercing bullets and require criminal background checks on nearly all weapon sales.

Also included in the president's new "war on weapons" are 23 executive actions the White House plans to enact to address gun violence.

Before we go further, your humble observer would like to point out we're handing the debate of gun control to a Congress which, according to a recent poll, finds itself at one of its lowest popularity points in the history of mankind. When individuals were asked to list their thoughts about the collective hired hands in D.C., the results were, to say the least, a little frightening.

The good news: The 535 hired hands are more popular than the Kardashians, Lindsay Lohan, meth labs and the Ebola virus. The bad news: The hiring hands rated head lice, colonoscopies, cockroaches, the NFL replacement refs and Donald Trump ahead in the likeability factor.

It must warm the cockles of the Congressional heart to know hemorrhoids were not on the list.

YHO will make no comment on the proposals covering assault weapons or magazine capacity. A previous ban on "assault" weapons was instituted in 1994 and carried a 10-year expiration date. The initial ban, which covered fully automatic weapons and ammunition clips above 10-round carriers, was so rife with loopholes that it still remained possible to purchase both. The president's proposal would reinstitute that ban and close the loopholes, including the one which made weapons manufactured before the ban exempt from legislation.

One point: Since 1934, fully automatic weapons have been strictly regulated...allegedly. It doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to find ways around regulations, and that is one of the loopholes even the NRA supports closing.

One point on which the administration and the NRA agree is that background checks should be more in-depth. That is addressed in a couple of the 23 executive orders the president is set to enforce. One would require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system; another would take a close look at legal barriers relating to HIPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which could prevent states from making information available.

That last measure, many say, would make it much easier to uncover those individuals with a history of mental health problems. Individuals on both sides of the gun control issue believe revealing information on mental health issues would have prevented gun purchases by persons involved in recent mass shootings.

While many of the 23 proposed executive orders seem to address primarily administrative issues and have little to do with actual gun control, a couple of these cause one's eyebrows to elevate slightly.

One order would direct our Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks. Right. Yours truly does not exactly have a warm and fuzzy feeling about giving the "check'em out" authority to the same individuals responsible for handing over fully automatic weapons to drug cartels and then letting them "slip through the cracks."

Another would clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes. Huh? Perhaps that is more for the protection of the doctor than for diagnosis. One can imagine the following pre-examination question: "Hi, I'm Dr. Probe, your proctologist. Before we begin, do you own a gun?"

We hope Republicans and Democrats in Congress will find reasonable, common ground in the upcoming debate, but that would be sorta like hoping the fox and the chickens can sleep peacefully together in that coop.

Our fear is that this "war on gun violence" will soon become as successful as the War on Poverty (a six-decade, multi-billion dismality), the War on Drugs (marijuana now legal in a couple of states and sales of others holding steady) and the War on Stupidity (there's still a Congress). About the only war Congress is winning these days is the War on the Middle Class, but we're still trying to hang in there.

Pat Culverhouse is a journalist and political columnist who lives in Minden. You may contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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