President Barack Obama has announced executive actions to expand background checks for those seeking to buy guns at gun shows or online. Many Republicans, including the 2016 presidential candidates, quickly responded with harsh criticism, including promises to repeal the order if they become president.
Gun control has become one of our nation’s most polarizing issues, often requiring no thought before delivering a one-sentence rebuttal to the other side. If you’re Democrat, you are for stricter gun laws. If you are a Republican, stricter gun laws don’t work and violate the Second Amendment.
Does it make sense that some buyers receive a background check and others don’t? Maybe not.
But there are reasonable concerns over expanding them. For instance, since the buyer absorbs the cost of the check, it could hurt lower-income people in high-crime areas who want a gun to protect their family. The facts seem to be worthy of thoughtful discussion and consideration.
For some, concerns about Obama’s actions are not just about the specific policy, but the method for enacting it. That the president went around Congress and possibly overstepped his legal authority is at least a little off-putting – and ironic considering one of candidate Obama’s primary critiques of George W. Bush was “abuse of presidential authority.”
There is also frustration with the president’s overall approach to the gun issue. When talking about guns, Obama often seems to fall back to the party line. He uses every shooting tragedy as an opportunity to pound Republicans and blame guns and their law-abiding supporters.
Many see gun violence as part of much bigger problems. Most informed Americans understand that inadequate mental health programs and other problems – such as the breakdown of families and overall moral decline – are true culprits behind gun violence. After all, it’s not like guns were suddenly made available in recent years. Guns haven’t changed that much; people have.
When the president uses the attacks in San Bernardino as an example of a gun control problem, he minimizes the fact that it was a terrorist attack. While the Sandy Hook school tragedy appropriately brought Obama to tears, Americans also want their president to show passion and resolve about attacks on our nation, not just use them to further his political agenda on gun control.
Following the recent surge in terror activities around the world, Americans list terrorism as their top concern. And it’s clear that Americans aren’t sure their government is doing what’s needed to keep them safe.
So, in growing numbers Americans are buying guns. According to a recent Gallup poll, 63 percent of people believe that having a gun in their home makes it a safer place to be, up sharply from 35 percent in 2000.
While the electorate is clearly angry this year – for some good reasons – a leader worthy of the greatest nation in the world would work to unite the nation and does not play to worst instincts. Leaders rise above the bluster and show through their tone and actions that disagreeing doesn’t have to make us enemies.
On gun control, Obama is falling short.
Ashley Snee Giovannettone, a former spokeswoman for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a consultant in Sacramento. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.