Richardson: A shameful day for Washington - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Richardson: A shameful day for Washington

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Bill Richardson

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Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 10:56 am | Updated: 7:00 am, Mon Dec 2, 2013.

On April 17, a bi-partisan piece of legislation, which included “common sense reforms” to help address gun violence, was defeated in the U.S. Senate.

The President quickly held a press conference, surrounded by families of the Newtown victims, where he called it, a “shameful day for Washington.”

He continued, “Forty-five lawmakers stood in the way of improvements to the background check system that would keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally unstable — something that 90 percent of Americans support.”

First, and he should know this since 1) he’s the President, and 2) he used to teach Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, but the federal government was purposefully designed so that at certain times we need more than a simple majority to pass legislation. It provides some restraint on the majority from doing whatever they want, whenever they want.

But, second, where does he get his 90 percent number?

Do 90 percent of us support reducing gun violence? Clearly that’s a yes.

Does 90 percent support keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally unstable? Also a yes.

Does 90 percent agree that more legislation will help reduce gun violence? Does 90 percent agree that violent criminals don’t obey the laws we already have, and yet those criminals will obey some new law? Is that what the President thinks we support?

Does 90 percent think that we don’t have any laws that keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally unstable? Did you know that in the 14 years of doing federal background checks, more than 577,000 attempts to purchase a firearm were denied because the purchaser was convicted of a previous crime (over 58 percent of total denials)? During that same period, more than 10,000 additional attempts to purchase a firearm were denied because the purchaser was adjudicated mentally ill.

It would seem that there are some laws and checks already in place.

Does 90 percent believe that guns transferred between private parties (the target of the universal background check) are the cause of the country’s violence problem? How many guns obtained this way are used in crimes? Where did the President explain that?

Does 90 percent believe that universal background checks could have prevented Newtown? Most of us know that Adam Lanza illegally used the firearms his mother legally purchased. A background check law would have done nothing for Newtown, so why link the victims to it?

What happened in Newtown is a horrible tragedy.

But appealing to our emotions and manipulating public opinion to support legislation that enables a political agenda, but does nothing to reduce crime, is the bigger tragedy.

Let’s ask this: How many of us believe that holding criminals accountable for their actions and enforcing a punishment commensurate with their crime will reduce gun violence?

Or should we just continue to vilify the NRA (National Rifle Association) and law abiding gun owners as evil monsters who don’t care about the safety of our children until we get our agenda passed into law?

• CPA Bill Richardson has lived in Ahwatukee for more than 17 years.

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