Mission possible

The massacre of 20 children and six adults in an elementary school in Connecticut in the United States has triggered a wave of shock, bewilderment, grief and anger in America and the rest of the world.

The gunmen turned the gun on himself after he shot his victims. The US has witnessed scores of mass shootings in recent decades with the past 30 years seeing 60 mass shootings.

Thirty-one of these occurred in schools. Following the recent killings, President Barack Obama has promised “meaningful action.” Such action should begin with tighter gun control. Guns are easily procurable in the US. A survey in 2007 revealed that there are 88.8 guns for every 100 Americans.

The US gun lobby has argued that a person who wants to kill will do so whether or not guns are available. While this is true, if guns were not easily available, assailants would use weapons like knives. Unlike guns where dozens are mowed down in a matter of seconds, when knives are used the death toll is much lower.

The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Although the US has suffered many mass shootings, the government has been reluctant to regulate access to guns. This is because there is an extremely powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, which is linked to the Republican Party.

The NRA is a major obstacle to gun reform. Public support to the citizen’s right to hold weapons too is high.

Many believe that reform of gun laws in the US is a mission impossible. If President Obama could overcome Republican resistance to in health care reforms, gun reform should be possible too. In the past, presidents keen to reform gun laws took on the NRA head-on.

This proved a non-starter. Instead, Obama should take on the NRA after getting public support on his side. The NRA will find it difficult to resist pressure if it comes from below. Obama must use the wave of distress triggered by the recent killings to convince people that they are safer with fewer guns.

This is Obama’s last term as president. Should he push through gun reforms he will go down in history as the president who made Americans safer. It will be a powerful legacy to leave behind.

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