President Obama put forth his long-awaited proposal to address gun violence on Wednesday -- a common-sense yet somehow controversial plan long overdue at the national level.
The president called for a new ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and magazines that fire more than 10 rounds. He is also seeking universal background checks on all firearms sales, closing a loophole that now allows 40 percent of gun sales to occur without screenings, through gun shows or by way of private sellers. Obama also simultaneously issued 23 executive actions on gun safety -- sensible directives that lift the ban on federal research into gun safety, call for a review of gun safety locks and gun storage safes, and facilitate training in active shooter situations for first responders and school officials.
Critics quickly seized on his proposals, saying they won't prevent another Newtown, and the president acknowledged as much: His executive actions and proposed laws address only selective aspects of gun violence. But in this case, something is better than nothing.
"While there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely ... if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try," Obama said.
Indeed, a number of issues contribute to America's astronomical rate of gun violence, and most of them are unaffected by the president's plan; deficiencies in the treatment of mental illness and a general culture of violence are chief among them. But the easy availability of weaponry capable of inflicting rapid and widespread carnage is clearly one of those issues as well. We would be remiss as a nation to shrug our shoulders after all of the massacres of recent years and conclude there is simply nothing we can do. Impotence is not a national characteristic; we should be willing to strengthen laws that prevent the wrong people from getting access to dangerous weapons.
The National Rifle Association tried to paint the president's proposal as targeting responsible gun owners -- yet another extravagant claim that's been a hallmark of its defensive and absurd ballyhoo against recent calls for gun legislation. Nothing in Obama's proposed actions would lead to the confiscation of guns already owned by law-abiding Americans, nor deprive them of the right to own guns.
We can be sure, though, that the NRA will exert its power to prevent the proposed package of bills from passing, at least in any recognizable form. The president and vice president both acknowledged this, with the vice president invoking the line about not letting perfect be the enemy of good. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed doubt about the possibility of passing meaningful reform and House Republicans showed little enthusiasm for it.
That's why the president made a point to note that his proposed measures won't happen without the help of the American people. He specifically called for support from congressional districts like our own where there is strong Second Amendment support.
Let us be clear: The confiscation of weapons or interference with the right to own arms for hunting, collection and self-protection is off the table and must stay off the table. But America's well-regulated militia -- that's all of us -- must, for the good of the nation, allow itself to be at least moderately regulated.