Opinion

The Great Debate

Fighting the gun world

Customers view display at a gun shop in Los Angeles, California December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

In the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Washington Post began a series of editorials calling for an end to unregulated guns. Those editorials continued every day for months.  After a while, the editor gave up, and gun control eventually was forgotten – as it has been over and over again.

Now, almost five months after the killing of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, riveted the nation, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is talking about trying to resurrect his bill on gun background checks that was defeated in the Senate last month.

Why is it so difficult to regulate guns in America?  Part of it is a result of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of the state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Many Americans now believe that the Second Amendment means only using arms for regulated militias. But many people outside of big cities believe that keeping unregulated guns is part of what America means.

Confronting the political problem of guns

We hope 2013 brings a civil, intelligent, and constructive national debate about gun policy. Past debates often failed to get traction because Americans have a fundamental disagreement about the meaning of the Second Amendment. Emotions and anger take over – and rational discourse disappears.

But we all now owe the 26 little children and teachers murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a sincere effort to bring light rather than heat to this debate. It does not advance progress for one side to insist that all guns should be confiscated while the other side argues “good guys” should shoot the “bad guys.”

What exactly is the right the Second Amendment protects? In the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, Justice Antonin Scalia was clear writing for the majority: The Second Amendment does not protect “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any way whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Michael Bloomberg and America’s guns

Bernd Debusmann— Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions are his own —

New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is stepping in where President Barack Obama fears to tread — confronting America’s powerful gun lobby. In the country that holds a commanding global lead in civilian gun ownership, it promises to be a hard fight.

No matter how it goes, America’s position at the top of the list of gun-owning nations looks secure. Up to 280 million guns are estimated to be in private hands and the arsenal is growing year by year. On a guns-per-capita basis, the United States (90 guns per 100 residents) is way ahead of second-ranked Yemen (61 per 100), according to the authoritative Small Arms Survey issued by the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

Obama has been a sore disappointment for advocates of tighter gun controls, and a boon to gun manufacturers and dealers. Predictions that his administration would swiftly work towards greater restrictions helped spark a huge run on firearms after his election. The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country’s biggest gun lobby, said its members reported widespread shortages of ammunition.

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