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Taking aim at gun laws


Several years ago in Red Deer provincial court, a local man defended his right to own handguns to guard himself against the “invasion of Chinese paratroopers.” He also wanted to be able to shoot bears when they sit in the middle of a road and won’t move, among other things.

He was arguing during a firearms hearing after his right to own handguns had been stripped. His arguments failed to persuade the judge.

The current gun debate in the United States is eerily similar. The 4.3-million strong National Rifle Association has a love affair with military-style assault rifles that is downright baffling. And their stand on the right to “bear arms” is somewhat scary, given their pledge to carry their guns to their graves in defiance of any new laws.

U.S. civilians own more than 300 million firearms (including 200 million rifles). Sixty-seven per cent of gun owners have them for protection against crime, according to an NRA survey.

Last week, President Barack Obama made the biggest American gun-control push in decades in response to the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were slaughtered by a madman armed with an AR-15 Bushmaster assault rifle, a weapon similar to the automatic version used by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Obama’s biggest challenge will be to carry the proposed ban on assault rifles. Members of the financially powerful NRA (with annual revenue of $205 million — a large chunk used to buy political favours) are unlikely to surrender their rifles without a fight.

Obama’s legislation is unlikely to get through Congress. “You don’t want to bet your house on the outcome,” said NRA president David Keene. “But I would say that the likelihood is that (Obama’s backers) are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through Congress.”

Lawmakers claim the December massacre has transformed the country and Americans are ready for stricter gun laws. But Democrat and Republican congressmen seem reluctant to follow Obama’s lead.

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a life-long member of the NRA, said: “I would tell all of my friends in the NRA, I will work extremely hard and I will guarantee you there will not be an encroachment on your Second Amendment rights.”

And Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Ariz., responded with a flat-out “no” when asked in an interview if Congress would pass a ban on assault weapons.

But why the NRA is so protective of these rifles?

Assault rifles can hold more than 30 bullets and can be fired as fast as one can pull the trigger. The AR-15 assault rifle is popular in competitions, firing ranges and hunting.

But how many bullets does it take to kill a deer? And what sort of targets are used in competition shooting that require the gun handler to rattle off 30 rounds in seconds?

The NRA has blocked all attempts to outlaw assault rifles since the ban in the U.S. was lifted in 2004. It’s no secret that its political donations are used to bolster allies and punish those who support tougher gun laws.

The NRA spent at least $24 million in the 2012 elections — $16.8 million through its political action committee and nearly $7.5 million through its affiliated Institute for Legislative Action. In addition, it’s spent about $4.4 million since July to lobby Congress.

“We know what works and doesn’t work,” said the NRA president. “And we’re not willing to compromise on people’s rights when there is no evidence that doing so is going to accomplish the purpose.”

How many more innocent U.S. citizens must be slaughtered before the NRA understands?

This is not about a Chinese invasion or stubborn bears. It’s about deadly force used against innocent people, again and again.

Rick Zemanek is a former Advocate editor.

 
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