Barack Obama: creating his legacy.

Obama’s gun reforms set scene for legal war


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Some of US President Barack Obama’s gun control measures may help reduce gun violence in the US, but others will do nothing but anger millions of legitimate firearm owners and become mired down in legal battles.

Obama’s actions could be political suicide if millions of US gun owners turn against him, but of course that’s irrelevant to Obama, who is now in his second and, under US law, last term as president, no matter how the US public votes at the next election. Obama is creating his legacy.

While the president signed into place his 23 executive actions, many US states were already countering them with their own laws, setting up years of future legal wrangling between federal and state jurisdictions over who has the real power to control firearms in the US.

Texas, for example, intends to make it a criminal offence to enforce federal anti-gun laws, and says it will arrest federal agents and hit them with fines of up to $50,000.

The four key changes Obama wants to enforce are:

  • ensuring every gun buyers undergoes a background check, in order to prevent the wrong people from buying firearms
  • banning “military-style assault weapons” and high capacity magazines
  • “making schools safer”
  • increasing access to mental health services.

Indicating the level at which some of these changes are considered self-evident truths in gun control, the ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is to be accompanied by “other common-sense steps to reduce gun violence,” according to the wording of the White House document outlining Obama’s measures.

The White House does not define what a “military-style assault weapon” is, but the term – an invention of the anti-gun movement intended to demonise many semi-automatic firearms – is applied broadly to most modern semi-auto rifles such as the Remington R-15.

Obama’s reforms will target older semi-automatic firearms, with, for example, a plan to ban the importation of “dangerous weapons” currently approved because their age.

These rifles were banned for a decade in the US until the law was allowed to expire in 2004, and police claim there has been a rise in their use by criminals. However, they have also become extremely popular as recreational hunting and competitive shooting rifles, so outlawing them will directly affected hundreds of thousands of lawful American shooters.

The National Rifle Association has been staunch in its opposition to almost any law that impinges on gun owners in any way, even to the point of shutting down research on gun violence – research that Obama wants to re-instate.

Given the highly questionable use of gun-violence data in Australian since our 1996 laws were introduced – including results concocted by the anti-gun lobby and now being used in the US – the NRA has good grounds for wanting all such research stopped.

However, without any research, it will be impossible to know in the future if Obama’s reforms are effective or not.

Their effects, though, will perhaps be postponed while the US becomes the scene of a legal war that will rage in the courts between Obama and his pro-gun opponents as both sides fight for ascendancy.


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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.

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