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By Scott DesJarlais, U.S. Congressman
Last week, shortly after a key provision of the Senate gun control bill was voted down, former Senior Advisor to the President David Axelrod took to Twitter to announce his displeasure over the bi-partisan opposition to this legislation. Mr. Axelrod Tweeted “No Senator who heeled today on the NRA’s command should have the gall to issue mournful statements the next time gun violence strikes.”
This comment is distasteful as it is illogical. It is especially offensive because the efforts by the White House and their allies are more about winning an ideological battle than truly addressing the underlying causes of gun violence in America.
Like many of my constituents, I am a proud gun owner and strong supporter our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. But I am also a colleague of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and I am father, who has a child nearly the same age as many of the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
I pray that we never again see another Newtown or Tucson or Aurora or Virginia Tech. And I firmly believe we must work to prevent these unspeakable acts of violence.
But the legislation that was defeated in the Senate would have done nothing more than erode the privacy of law-abiding Americans and create a government registry of all individuals who own firearms and the types of firearms they own. In fact, even one of the sponsors of the bill admitted their proposal would not prevent another mass shooting like Newtown.
Yet the administration continues to push for these sorts of superficial solutions while portraying their opponents as beholden to the gun lobby or unconcerned about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. This approach is unfortunate because it has left us unable to develop real solutions to decrease gun violence in America.
For example, we know that mental illness plays a large role in many of these mass shootings. Last year Mother Jones Magazine published a study where they looked at 62 mass shootings over the past 30 years. They found that in more than half of these incidents, the individuals responsible displayed clear signs of serious mental illness.
However, the administration’s strategy on gun control has essentially pushed the issue of mental health to the wayside. This is extremely disappointing because making our nation’s mental health care system more efficient and responsive is an idea that is overwhelmingly supported by both parties. In an era of partisan gridlock, we have an opportunity to do something that would have a demonstrable affect in making society safer.
It has been shown time and time again that simply making it harder for law abiding citizens to purchase guns will do little to hinder criminals from obtaining firearms to commit malicious acts. Our nation’s capital provides a perfect example of this flawed mentality. Until recently, Washington, D.C. had a near-total ban on all guns. But violent gun crime increased each year. In fact, a study found that DC’s homicide rate was substantially higher than that of 49 other major cities.
So why does the administration continue to keep pushing for these ineffective gun laws?
Perhaps the key can be found in a comment made by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the day before the gun control legislation was scheduled to be voted on in the Senate. Majority Leader Reid, in one of those rare Washington moments where the truth is accidentally spoken, stated that good progress was being made on the “anti-gun” legislation.
I think this statement is indicative of the administration’s true goals when it comes to gun control. When President Obama first ran for state office he supported banning the manufacture, sale and possession of all handguns in Illinois. When the president ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1999 he proposed increasing federal taxes on the sale of firearms, restricting gun purchases to one a month and increasing gun licensing fees. And when the president ran for Senate five years later, he supported a law that would only allow former law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons.
The president’s record displays a clear desire to drastically reduce the American people’s ability to lawfully own guns. But because this idea has been overwhelmingly rejected by the majority Americans, the president has been forced to mask his true desire under the guise of public safety concerns.
In fairness, this is not the first time this strategy has been used in Washington. However, for the president and his allies to try to humiliate those who see through his thinly veiled efforts is shameful. It is also unfair to those who believe we can protect both our Second Amendment rights and our fellow citizens. More importantly, it is unfair to the victims of gun violence who deserve real solutions from Washington.
If the president would move past the politics and the ideology and work with Congress to enact real measures to prevent gun violence, I’m confident he would find a willing group of individuals with whom to work. But if the president continues to attack our Second Amendment, either overtly or surreptitiously, then he can expect another bipartisan defeat.