Let me stipulate from the start that I admire President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for proposing what can only be considered as bold action on guns in the current political environment.
But, unfortunately, it's the political environment that is the problem. What seems possible now, even in the wake of the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, is hopelessly weak.
I support all of what the president has proposed, but I don't think it will have any more than the slightest impact on future Sandy Hooks much less the daily gun carnage that is so much a part of the American landscape that it is hardly even reported.
Banning the manufacture and sales of new assault weapons is a good move, but without doing anything to collect the three million of these kid-killing weapons already in circulation, there's nothing to prevent the next Adam Lanza from getting his hands on one of these disgusting things. We need to go way beyond simply trying to cut off the supply of these rifles and ban the possession of them. But, incredibly, even banning the production and sales of new kid-killing weapons without collecting the existing ones will actually be strongly opposed by the discredited National Rifle Association, and it seems like a tough sell in Congress.
Similarly, banning new high capacity magazines while leaving millions of existing clips in circulation is only a small step in the right direction. Moreover, defining a high capacity clip as one that holds more than ten bullets still leaves too much rapid-fire deadly force available.
Universal background checks for gun buyers is nice, but won't have much effect. Nancy Lanza was a law-abiding citizen who obtained her guns legally with a background check. Her mentally ill son had easy access to those guns.
Moreover, there's no way to judge the mental stability of millions of gun buyers. All you can know is their previous record, which could not have predicted many of the most devastating gun massacres of recent years.
Finally, the law doesn't touch handguns beyond extending background checks. As bad as assault rifles are, the truth is that most of the daily damage done by firearms through domestic violence, other crimes and suicide is wrought with handguns.
I have written previously about the need for strong and effective gun control, and must repeat that no proposal that doesn't dramatically reduce the 300 million guns in circulation in the U.S. will have much of an impact.
So, credit the president and vice president with bold action with their package of proposals. But discredit the current political environment for making weak, mostly ineffective proposals seem like they're bold.