Thursday, July 26, 2012

Obama vs. Romney on Guns


These two candidates couldn't be more different. You can't tell me that "both sides are exactly the same" or "both sides are just as bad." There's a fundamental difference between a thinker like Barack Obama who actually cares about people, and a glib businessman like Mitt Romney who seems to have no convictions or opinions of his own beyond what the Neocons tell him to say. And at least the President has his facts straight. Romney still thinks the Aurora shooter bought weapons illegally, when actually everything he had was legal under the laws of the state.

Obama at the Urban League Convention in New Orleans:
. . . we’ve been reminded recently that all this matters little if these young people can’t walk the streets of their neighborhood safely; if we can’t send our kids to school without worrying they might get shot; if they can’t go to the movies without fear of violence lurking in the shadows. (Applause.)

Our hearts break for the victims of the massacre in Aurora. (Applause.) We pray for those who were lost and we pray for those who loved them. We pray for those who are recovering with courage and with hope. And we also pray for those who succumb to the less-publicized acts of violence that plague our communities in so many cities across the country every single day. (Applause.) We can’t forget about that.

Every day – in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater. For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans. For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland. Violence plagues the biggest cities, but it also plagues the smallest towns. It claims the lives of Americans of different ages and different races, and it’s tied together by the fact that these young people had dreams and had futures that were cut tragically short.

And when there is an extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy like the one we saw, there’s always an outcry immediately after for action. And there’s talk of new reforms, and there’s talk of new legislation. And too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.

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. . . I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation -– that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage. But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals – (applause) – that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. (Applause.) These steps shouldn’t be controversial. They should be common sense. So I’m going to continue to work with members of both parties, and with religious groups and with civic organizations, to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction – not just of gun violence, but violence at every level, on every step, looking at everything we can do to reduce violence and keep our children safe -– from improving mental health services for troubled youth – (applause) – to instituting more effective community policing strategies. We should leave no stone unturned, and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe. (Applause.) And as we do so, as we convene these conversations, let’s be clear: Even as we debate government’s role, we have to understand that when a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government alone can’t fill. (Applause.) It’s up to us, as parents and as neighbors and as teachers and as mentors, to make sure our young people don’t have that void inside them.
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Mitt Romney with NBC's Brian Williams
Political implications, legal implications are something which will be sorted out down the road," Romney told NBC's Brian Williams during an exclusive interview here in London. "But I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws. A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening.

Romney, who enacted an assault weapons ban as governor of Massachusetts (with the support of a Democratic legislature) would not say whether he still believes that weapons like the AR-15 assault rifle used in the Colorado shooting were "instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people," as he described them during the bill signing ceremony in 2002.

When Williams followed up later in the interview on the Aurora attack, Romney argued that it would take a change in heart, not laws, to stop future violence.

"And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people."

More on Romney's "Gun Flub" as Salon calls it:
. . . As Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates explained: “All the weapons that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the clips that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the ammunition that he possessed, he possessed legally.”

Holmes used a handgun, a shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle in his massacre — all legal, thanks to the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, which had previously prohibited some versions of the AR-15. Holmes also had body armor, tear gas grenades, a gas mask and tactical gear. All are legal and widely available online at minimal cost (one website sells tear gas grenades for just $16 a pop). The only way it would have been illegal for Holmes to have his guns would be if he had been diagnosed as mentally ill or was a convicted felon, but neither was the case. His only record was a speeding ticket.

“Background checks, as required by federal law, were properly conducted, and [Holmes] was approved,” said a spokesman for Bass Pro Shops, where he bought one of his guns. Holmes had also booby-trapped his apartment with homemade explosives, but there’s no evidence yet that any of these devices were illegal either, as he made them himself with common materials like gasoline.

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