A bold shot

January 19, 2013 - 3:05:59 am

US President Barack Obama has done what was considered undoable until recently – he kept his promise and called on the US Congress to strengthen America’s loose gun laws to save more children and innocent people from being mowed down by people who have crossed into the peripheries of lunacy. The president’s new proposals for gun controls have been described by some analysts as the most serious attempt in almost 20 years to bring meaningful limits to America’s intense love affair with guns.

Obama has chosen to act before the public erases from their memory the horror of the Connecticut school shooting last month, in which 20 children and six teachers were killed by a gunman. The deep anguish and revulsion which the shooting caused made Americans rethink their gun culture, resulting in a broad support for strict gun laws.

The president’s list of proposals, announced on Wednesday, is impressive. It includes a renewed ban on assault weapons in private hands; the introduction of background checks for all gun purchases; close monitoring of mental health patients’ access to weapons; a limit to the number of bullets in ammunition clips etc. The White House proposals follow meetings between a task force led by Vice-President Joe Biden and groups from across the political spectrum. Biden met gun control and firearms rights advocates, entertainment and video game industry figures, parents of shooting victims and law enforcement officials.

The political battle over gun regulation has now just begun. Every American knows that it’s a long and bitter battle, one in which victory will not be easy. Powerful lobbies like the National Rifle Association have trained their guns on Obama and will not rest until they shoot down the reforms. But not all of Obama’s proposals will meet with success. Some of the provisions, like a proposed ban on assault weapons, appear to have poor odds of passage by the Congress. At the same time, there is strong public support for improving the background-check system for gun purchases.

There is hope now because the president has undertaken a mission which he is determined to fulfill. The victory he achieves, even if small, will help save human lives. As he said: “If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”

Also, Obama’s initiative is important to the wider world. It is often forgotten that the US is not just the world’s biggest consumer of weapons it is also the world’s biggest exporter of guns. Tighter US gun laws can have a positive, cascading effect on the rest of the world.