A month after the Connecticut school shooting where 20 children were killed, U.S. President Barack Obama took action on gun control Wednesday, signing executive orders that don't require approval from Congress, while also imploring the House and the Senate to ban military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines for pistols and rifles.
While the National Rifle Association gets called by the news media for comment (and issues a video saying that armed men guard the president's children so why can't armed teachers guard your children), gun shop owners and bullet and gun manufacturers quietly laugh all the way to the bank.
That's because whenever a president vows to tighten up gun control, any American considering getting a gun (or more guns) runs to the store and stocks up. Despite the fact that the Sandy Hook school shooter used an AR-15 semi-automatic, magazine-fed rifle (the AR-15 is the modern version of the M16 first issued to American soldiers in Vietnam), these same rifles are now hard to find in many American stores, not because American residents don't want to be associated with a weapon used to slaughter school children, but because sales are soaring and manufacturers can't keep up, all out of fear that Obama will ban future sales of these guns.
Same goes for those high-capacity magazines that can hold dozens of bullets, allowing the gun's user to be a walking weapons arsenal and keep firing while police officers have to stop and reload. Those magazines are also flying off the shelves, just in case Obama can actually get Congress to pass a law that might restrict their access in any way.
Obama also wants universal background checks on all gun purchases, to close the most ridiculous loophole ever built into a law. While any American buying a gun from a store has to fill out paperwork for a background check, no background check is required for anyone buying their guns from a private seller at a gun show or online. About 40 per cent of all guns in the U.S. change hands this way and that's how Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine school shooters, got their guns.
The NRA is also enjoying a surge of new members from outraged citizens who believe their rights to own guns supersedes the authority of any level of government to set limits on gun ownership.
While the NRA flares its nostrils about Obama coming to take away the guns owned by law-abiding citizens, he's proposing no such thing. Ownership of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines would be grandfathered into any federal legislation, meaning only new sales would be restricted. Anyone already owning these weapons would be exempt, hence the rush on sales.
Not only would these guns be exempt, their value would rise dramatically, unless gun control legislation included a clause that made the gun or magazine restricted if it was sold after the law came into effect. And even if that kind of clause was written into the law, they would still be worth more, thanks to a black market that would quickly arise to move these valuable, but illegal, weapons.
Whether Obama gets his gun control legislation passed or not, millions of these guns and magazines will already be owned by millions of Americans. The horses will be long gone from the barn by the time the doors get closed.
It ultimately boils down to the Second Amendment and the "right to bear arms." The NRA and its supporters insist that government can't restrict that right but rights aren't endless in their authority and governments restrict rights all the time. As soon as one right or one person's right infringes on another, government must step in. When the right to bear arms infringes on protecting "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as laid out in the Declaration of Independence, it's time to choose sides.
Sadly, too many Americans still insist on having it both ways.