On January 30, former democratic representative Gabrielle Giffords went in front of congress to make an emotional appeal for them to be “be bold, [and] be courageous” when trying to deal with the highly-partisan and highly-sensitive issue of gun control. Rep. Giffords, herself a victim of a crazed mass shooting outside an Arizona shopping center, spoke at the first congressional hearing on firearm violence since the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut that have sparked a nationwide debate on the merits of gun regulation, and the role firearms play in American society.
Despite the effort being made by Rep. Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mike Kelly, to promote common sense gun regulation that respects the second amendment and Justice Scalia’s interpretation of that amendment, NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre continued to stand by his previous statements. At the hearing he repeated some classic NRA favorites, like pointing out how many gun laws already exist, claiming “new gun laws have failed in the past, and they will fail again,” and defending his opposition to laws instituting universal background checks. Although the comprehensive plan that has been put forward by the White House does not necessarily enjoy a broad coalition of support, laws such as the universal background checks receive overwhelming support, and regulating the size of magazines receives slightly less, but still quite significant levels of public support.
The problem with this gun debate is that it coincides with attempts to completely reform the immigration problem in the U.S., and the continuing debate about the finances of the federal government. The number of firearm deaths that occur in the U.S. every year makes the gun debate very important, but in a congress that seems to have little interest in enacting firearm regulation in any form, it seems as though this issue could become a political sideshow while the immensely important budget discussions could fade from the spotlight. The prospect of the gun debate pushing the budget debate out of the spotlight should be frightening to anyone who noticed the United States GDP decreased in the 4th quarter on the back of spending cuts and tax increases.