Published March 13, 2011
The Second Amendment and court precedent guarantee an individual's right to bear arms, but improved and expanded background checks are needed to prevent gun violence like the shocking attack in Tucson in January, President Obama wrote in an op-ed Sunday.
Writing in the Arizona Daily Star more than two months after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, six of whom died, Obama said he's "willing to bet" that responsible gun owners would support laws to "keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few -- dangerous criminals and fugitives, for example -- from getting their hands on" guns.
"Most gun owners know that the word 'commonsense' isn't a code word for 'confiscation," he wrote.
"I'm willing to bet they don't think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas -- that we should check someone's criminal record before he can check out at a gun seller; that an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to buy a gun so easily; that there's room for us to have reasonable laws that uphold liberty, ensure citizen safety and are fully compatible with a robust Second Amendment," the president wrote.
Obama wrote in Sunday's op-ed that his administration has not curbed gun rights but, in fact, has expanded them, by letting people carry guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.
But, he said, with more than 27,000 deaths from guns each year -- a number down from its height of more than 39,000 in 1993, more needs to be done to prevent assailants like Tucson suspect Jared Loughner from getting a hold of weapons.
"A man our Army rejected as unfit for service; a man one of our colleges deemed too unstable for studies; a man apparently bent on violence, was able to walk into a store and buy a gun," he lamented.
The president went on that "almost all gun owners in America are highly responsible ... and that's something that gun-safety advocates need to accept."
"Likewise," he added, "advocates for gun owners should accept the awful reality that gun violence affects Americans everywhere, whether on the streets of Chicago or at a supermarket in Tucson.
Obama suggested three areas for reform: enforcement of gun control laws already on the books through better implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; rewards for states that keep the best data -- "and therefore do the most to protect our citizens"; and a faster and nimbler network that provides "an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing."
And while the president acknowledged that some gun owners will never support his call, he argued that weak background checks are bad for police officers, law-abiding citizens and gun sellers.
"If we're serious about keeping guns away from someone who's made up his mind to kill, then we can't allow a situation where a responsible seller denies him a weapon at one store, but he effortlessly buys the same gun someplace else," he wrote, in reference to the "gun show loophole" that gun control advocates say enables people to avoid background checks.