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Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

America Discusses Gun Control
after the Newtown Massacre


By Bartosz T. Wieliński

Is the country really going to change? President Obama wants to ban rifle ownership, and the number of people advocating unlimited access to guns is shrinking — including well-known politicians and ordinary American citizens.

Translated By Jakub Pankowksi

19 December 2012

Edited by Molly Rusk

 


Poland - Gazeta Wyborcza - Original Article (Polish)

Is the country really going to change? President Obama wants to ban rifle ownership, and the number of people advocating unlimited access to guns is shrinking — including well-known politicians and ordinary American citizens. Even the reaction of the four million-member organization, the National Rifle Association, seems significant.

The most powerful lobby in the United States, before which politicians of both major parties tremble, was silent in the first days after the tragedy. This tactic has worked so far. After the attacks of armed lunatics, including the one in Aurora, Denver, where 12 people were shot dead in July, the NRA just waited until the excitement subsided. However, Americans cannot calm down after Adam Lanza's attack on the primary school in Newtown where 20 children, mostly 6- and 7-year-olds, and six teachers were shot dead.

A statement of 71 words proclaiming that the members of the NRA are shocked by this senseless murder went relatively unnoticed, the more so because it claimed that the association waited to speak about the issue until now to respect the grief of victims’ families and to avoid interfering with the investigation.

There has not been such a heated debate about gun control in the U.S. in years. CNN is constantly showing footage of children being killed with the poignant religious hymn “Amazing Grace" in the background. Thousands of people are now writing petitions to the White House, calling for stricter gun ownership laws. The AR-15 rifle — the gun that Lanza used — has been withdrawn by several retail companies including the largest one in the U.S. — Walmart. However, Cerberus Capital Management, one of the most powerful U.S. investment firms, announced that it was selling shares in companies that produce weapons, including Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the AR-15.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan vetoed a bill introduced just before the Newtown Massacre that would allow concealed weapon to be carried in state hospitals, schools and offices.

A lot is happening in Washington as well. Two influential senators left a group of politicians who have been defending gun ownership rights. Barack Obama announced that he would support the idea proposed by Senator Diane Finstein: a ban on the sale of civilian versions of military rifles. If the ban was implemented, the civilian AR-15 would have to be withdrawn — it is the civilian version of the famous M-16, used by the Americans during the Vietnam War — and civilians could not own gun clips with more than ten bullets.

Similar legislation was passed in the 90s by initiative of the Democratic president Bill Clinton. The law had been in practice for ten years, but in 2004, Democrats did not even try to extend it. The matter was set aside even when they had the majority in both houses of parliament. Politicians and Obama himself feared the revenge of the omnipotent NRA.

One question is whether the president, having prohibited the possession of guns, would go a step further and reduce arms trade, for example. That would mean a struggle with the parliament and the Supreme Court, because the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution. However, experts say that the very elimination of the AR-15 would make lunatic attacks less devastating; a pistol is not as deadly as a rifle.

Another question is: What will the NRA do now?

American commentators predict that the association's advocates will try to explain the tragedy with the Newtown offender’s mental illness (Lanza probably suffered from Asperger's syndrome). Supporters of the NRA are then predicted to slowly begin a counteroffensive to halt Obama's aspirations. Even now, a number of Republican politicians state that if the school staff in Newtown had been armed, the tragedy would not have occurred.



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