By Quinton D. Howard
Image Courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov
In a January town hall meeting, President Barack Obama outlined his recent executive orders about gun safety and the role of guns in our culture, and took questions from the likes of Taya Kyle, widow of famed American sniper Chris Kyle, and a plethora of others including spokespeople from the National Rifle Association.
During the meeting, hosted by CNN on Jan. 7, viewers learned that Obama is steadfast in his conviction to push for gun law reform and that there is a strong, coherent resistance to his ideals. As he enters his final year in office, Obama reiterated that he will not endorse any presidential candidate of either party who is not in support of comprehensive gun reform.
“We’re not going to eliminate gun violence, but we will lessen it,” he said. “If we take the number from 30,000 [gun-related deaths per year in the U.S.] down to 28,000, that’s 2,000 families who don’t have to go through what the families of Newtown, or San Bernardino, or Charleston went through.”
By the numbers, America has some the highest rates of gun circulation in the world. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, there are approximately 88.8 firearms per 100 people. A 2007 Switzerland-based small arms survey concluded that the United States, with less than 5% of the world’s population, accounts for 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.
Naturally, does a high rate of civilian gun-ownership result in high frequencies of gun-related deaths?
According to the U.S State Department, from 2001-2013, there were more American deaths by firearms on U.S. soil (406,496) than terrorism (3,380), including the events of 9/11. Despite these alarming figures, the homicide rate in 2013 was 4.5 per 100,000 people, the lowest since the 1950s, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Both the President and his opposition have substance behind their respective arguments.
Obama mainly advocated his proposed expansion of background checks and the hiring of more federal agents to oversee record-keeping and enhance gun-law enforcement. Under his presidency, the number of ATF agents has declined, citing that Congress needs to support a budget that permits more funding.
The President argued that background checks will help prevent mentally ill people and felons from purchasing firearms. He suggested that expanded background checks will lower the number of individuals who legally buy firearms and illegally resell them in the inner-city streets.
President Obama noted that in almost every other aspect of consumerism, America has enacted regulations for safety.
“Traffic fatalities have gone down drastically in my lifetime…seat belts really work and [America] passed some laws to make sure seatbelts are fastened,” said Obama.
He also outlined how regulations have made toys safer for children so they won’t swallow them and how drug companies now have locked lids so children are not able to open them. He pleaded that since America has been successful at implementing comprehensive safety regulation on other products, why can’t the same thing be done with guns?
On the other side of the debate, there is a substantive argument as to why enacting more gun laws is pointless. Taya Kyle challenged the President on his ideals. She claimed that a background check will not stop a person from obtaining a gun. Her stance is supported by the fact that the shooter of Sandy Hook Elementary School, a common reference echoed by the President, stole the weaponry from a family member.
“We want to think that if we make a law, people will follow it, but by the very nature of their crime, they’re not following it,” Kyle said.
The widow to the famous Chris Kyle goes on to share that murder rates are at an all-time low in America and that should be something we celebrate.
“Why not celebrate where we are… why not celebrate that 99.9% of us are good people and are not going to kill anyone?”
A popular claim is that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Anderson Cooper, the CNN host and moderator of the meeting, even eluded to the narrative that “good people with guns kill bad people with guns.”
A concern is that if the government wants to implement stricter gun legislation, how will that be done without hindering the liberties of law-abiding citizens/gun-owners?
President Barack Obama concluded the meeting by asking for a bipartisan effort to help decrease gun violence in America. In the first five days of 2016, according to Vox policy and politics, at least 147 people died from gun violence.