Gun control, Biden bids to bite the bullet - GulfToday

Gun control, Biden bids to bite the bullet

Gun Control in US

Salesman Ryan Martinez clears the chamber of an AR-15 at the "Ready Gunner" gun store in Provo, Utah. Reuters

The issue of gun control has been vexing the powers-that-be in the US for decades. Nearly 40,000 Americans died in 2017 from shootings. This is a statistic that should send shock waves across people in any country, not just the US. It may lead one to the mistaken notion that the US is a trigger-happy nation. Far from it. There have been frequent calls for gun control, but it is a divisive issue.

America has experienced a significant number of deadly mass shootings at schools and other public venues for decades.

Four people were killed, one of them a child, in a shooting at an office building in suburban Los Angeles on March 31. A week earlier, a gunman killed 10 people in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, before he was taken into custody by police.

President Joe Biden wants to bite the bullet, unveiling his first bid to bring the ‘epidemic,’ as he terms it, under control. He also called it an “international embarrassment”.

“This is an epidemic, for God’s sake, and it has to stop,” he said, calling shootings “a public health crisis.”

Biden has announced six executive measures which he said would help tamp down the crisis.

To show that he means business, he announced the nomination of David Chipman, a gun-control proponent and former law enforcement officer, as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The problem is Congress is unable to agree on broad new regulations, like stricter background checks for gun buyers.

Reflecting the lack of unity in Washington around anything to do with firearms restrictions, the ATF — a key agency in the fight against gun violence — has not had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015.

Biden’s six measures included a proposed rule to “stop proliferation of ghost guns,” as firearms built from home kits are known. The White House says these homemade weapons are especially of concern because they have no serial numbers and cannot be traced after being used in crimes.

Another proposed rule will be tightening regulations on arm braces designed to stabilise pistols, a device used by the man who killed 10 people in a Colorado grocery store last month. Under the rule, pistols with braces would be classified as short-barrelled rifles, putting them under stricter control.

The proposals are just a start but Congress has to take on far-reaching measures, like ending the sale of powerful rifles often used in mass killings.

Yet, there is fierce opposition to banning powerful weapons like the AR-15, a semi-automatic resembling the US military M16 rifle.

Impassioned calls for action after mass shootings that have killed first-graders in Connecticut, both high-schoolers and nightclub goers in separate attacks in Florida, and music fans in Las Vegas have borne little legislative fruit. And some successful measures have later been watered down or overturned.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country’s most influential political lobby group, routinely appears on TV in the aftermath of mass shootings to insist that the real enemy is the pernicious influence of the entertainment industry and that the solution is the sale of more guns, not fewer.

The suggestion that the rugged hero with his typical cowboy hat featured in spaghetti westerns and all guns blazing at the baddies is responsible for the violence that permeates society is ridiculous.

Past polls have shown a majority of Americans in both parties have a desire for more gun control, and new legislation may be on the way — the House of Representatives approved a pair of gun control bills in March that could make background checks more effective.

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