As the country recovers from the horror of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, people across the country are beefing up their stockpiles, purchasing guns faster than stores can keep them in stock.
President Obama held a press conference yesterday in which he announced that new gun control proposals would be in front of Congress next month, a quick response to the horrors at Sandy Hook last week.
“The president’s pledge came as House Republicans restated their firm opposition to enacting any new limits on firearms or ammunition, setting up the possibility of a philosophical clash over the Second Amendment early in Mr. Obama’s second term,” The New York Times reports.
The plan will be developed over the next few weeks with VP Joe Biden leading a group from across multiple government agencies. Rumor has it that a ban on assault weapons and “high-capacity” ammunition magazines could be part of the proposal, the NYT says. Both sides, especially the GOP, want to take a look at changes to the mental health system, education, and other factors besides direct gun control measures as well.
Mayor Bloomberg, a longtime gun control advocate, has thrown his support behind the President’s efforts. That support will likely come with financial backing, as the billionaire mayor is known to put his money where his mouth is. And he has a history of successfully achieving his policy goals. He’s not the only politico in favor of change. Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has come out in favor of stronger regulation and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has said she will introduce gun control legislation next year. For a list of lawmakers who have changed their tune about gun regulation, click here. (Rep. Heinrich is on the list.)
At the same time, people are making a mad dash to their local gun shop to get their hands on assault rifles and armored backpacks. “A spike in gun sales is common after a mass shooting, but the Connecticut tragedy has generated record sales in many states,” BusinessWeek reports. Background checks in states like Colorado and Nevada broke records in the days after the Connecticut shooting. And Walmart says it was sold out of semi-automatic weapons in five states including Pennsylvania and Alabama. Shoppers are also turning to eBay to purchase ammunition.
Parents are taking precautions with their children, investing in armor that slips into a child’s backpack, priced at $150 to $300. However, CBS News points out, the armor is designed to stop handgun fire, not assault weapon shots. A man quoted in that story bought one for his one-year-old son. All the parents argue it’s a measure they’re willing to take if it will do anything to protect their kids.
Of course, what will really protect children and adults alike would be fewer people firing guns at other people. The National Rifle Association, which crows about the Second Amendment when anyone even mentions gun regulation or gun control, waited until Tuesday to issue a statement, available here. After expressing shock and sadness over the Sandy Hook shooting, they said,”The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” The group is planning a press conference tomorrow in Washington and its Facebook page is back up and running (and accepting insane comments) after being shut down in the wake of the tragedy. We couldn’t find any detail about what they might be prepared to discuss, however, if you’re interested (and you should be) in the history of the NRA and how it became so politically powerful, check out this New Yorker story from April. It’s eye-opening.
On a positive note, New Jersey held its gun buyback program over the weekend in Camden, one of the state’s most troubled cities. A new record was set, with 1,137 guns turned in, beating the previous record of 700. Among the weapons returned were sawed-off shotguns, rifles used for elephant hunting, and fully automatic weapons. With $110,000 in cash and $6,000 in gift cards to hand out, the program ran out of money. The New York Post says that nearly all of the weapons will be destroyed.
And some companies are taking steps to distance themselves from the gun industry. The Washington Post reports that package’s Sporting Goods will stop selling sporting rifles, at least for the moment. And investor Cerebus Capital Management, which has a stake Freedom Group, the company that manufactures Bushmaster Rifles, said that it will be selling that stake. “It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate. . . . There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take,” Cerebus said in a statement.
The paper says that the gun industry generated $11.7 billion in sales this year. Sales have been strong since the moment President Obama took office with gun advocates nonsensically fearful that gun laws would tighten to the point where they wouldn’t be able to add to their collections.
New and stronger gun regulation is needed in this country. If Sandy Hook (and the the other recent shootings) hasn’t made that clear, then nothing will. Of course, we haven’t yet addressed all of the hundreds of millions of guns that are already in people’s homes and on the streets. A fundamental change in our gun mentality will have to be coupled with any legislative measures.