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L'Express, France

USA/Newtown:
The NRA Will
Not Go Away


By Noëlle Lenoir

Translated By Lindsey Cambridge

20 December 2012

Edited by Anita Dixon


France - L'Express - Original Article (French)

This Friday, the Newtown school massacre, that claimed the lives of 27 people, 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 and 7 adults (teachers and the shooter’s mother who had gone home to get something), disturbed America as well as other countries around the world. Nevertheless, Le Monde’s headline was titled “Obama’s tears are not enough.”

Indeed, the American president — with tears in his eyes — immediately announced, “We have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this. Regardless of the politics." He just asked Vice-President Joe Biden to lead a task group at the White House that will have the duty of proposing further action.

Not easy! In an America that exalts in violence and in which violence has been one of its trademarks, from Westerns to films that are barely watchable due to the brutality of some scenes, carrying firearms is still regarded by many as a fact of civilization.

Barack Obama knows that fundamentally, he must not touch that. But this time, the legislation could change. Because for the first time, the polls show that more than half of Americans consider that this massacre reflects a serious societal problem.

It’s in this context that he must rectify the inaccuracies of the press on the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on the right to keep and bear arms.

While exploring what can be done during Obama’s presidency, it is time to take stock of the harmful influence of the all-powerful firearms group — the National Rifle Association (NRA) – on American democracy.

The U.S. Supreme Court by no means rules out the regulation of the right to keep and bear arms.

It is true that the U.S. Supreme Court extensively interprets the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It states that, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Second Amendment clearly limits its dedication to the fact that in the absence of a professional army, it falls to armed citizens organized by the State to defend the nation. Nothing to do with the rhetoric of widespread arms defenders who believe it is a right for decent people to defend themselves against criminals and bandits.

In two notable decisions, in 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court —ruling 5 against 4 — truly adhered to this dangerous rhetoric. It is not the least bit absurd to deduce from these judgments that the Court had agreed to forbid regulating the acquisition or the bearing of firearms. According to a well-known constitutional principle, “no freedom is general and absolute.”

All things considered, regulations on firearms already exist in the United States.

Several states and major cities envisage that no firearm be sold without authorities first verifying whether the potential buyer has a criminal record, is a drug addict or is mentally ill. Along the same lines, at the federal level, the FBI has a database — certainly non-comprehensive —which records, all the same, the data on the type of individual to which the selling of firearms is discouraged.

Over-the-counter sales of assault weapons were forbidden until 2004, when the ban was lifted.

What choices does Obama have? Theoretically, he has three.

Change the Constitution? Forget it. He doesn’t have a majority.

Take an executive order (a presidential decree). Of course. Incidentally, the Department of Justice wants to require that the FBI database be strengthened and that the inquiries on firearms purchasers be more systematic.

Vote on a law? Why not? New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, leads a group of Democratic senators who were formerly defenders of arms manufacturers but are now demanding rigorous regulation. Yes, but... the Republican Party remains speechless and one can reasonably imagine that this discretion has to do with the group that may have financed their campaign. And particularly, the famous group — the NRA —which remains very strong in the American political class even after reluctantly expressing its sadness a week later.

The consultation of its site has many people worried.

First, from this site, one sees that a few clicks are sufficient to order a weapon from the catalogue of allied businesses, which shows the organization’s interests.

Then —by giving A pluses to supporters in Congress — the NRA doesn’t hesitate to point a finger at the enemies of its cause: Barack Obama, whom the group did not endorse in the last presidential election, the recalcitrant elected, like California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is going to propose a law to forbid over-the-counter sales of assault weapons and weapons with multiple cartridges. It has even seen two liberal judges named to the Supreme Court by Obama: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

It will be tough and victory is not guaranteed. But Feinstein’s proposition will be winnable because the lives of many young Americans are at stake. The image of American democracy in the rest of the world is at stake as well.



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