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US and weapons: Obama changes the rules of the game

"Discount 15% for any pizza for those who bring a gun or show a license to carry weapons"

US and weapons: Obama changes the rules of the game

This unexpected announcement appeared recently on the doors of a snack bar in the resort town of Virginia Beach on the Atlantic coast. The owner of the institution, Jay Laiz, unrolling the dough for another cake, admits with a smile that things have gone better since then. Advertising has worked, visitors have become more. Four out of every five now come armed, and one appeared even with a Kalashnikov rifle.

Lays himself also has a pump-action shotgun at hand - just in case, you never know what might happen. According to him, he was once attacked, and he still regrets that he did not have a pistol with him. In this regard, the owner of the Virginia pizzeria with all his might supports the second amendment to the US Constitution, which gives the right to own small arms. But advertising for a discount, he says, can become permanent.

Laze is one of 65 million Americans (more than 20% of the population of the country) who have a gun, revolver, rifle, gun or even machine gun. Many of them are convinced that this can protect themselves and their private property from criminals. Others do not mind shooting at their ranch or in a dash: they grew up next to the weapons that they always had in their house, and do not want to part with their favorite toys. Still others are inveterate hunters who go to a large beast, not with a shotgun, but with a self-loading carbine. And someone reminds that weapons are part of American history and, if you like, a culture that played an important role in gaining state independence, conquering the Wild West and romanticized in countless Hollywood westerns and police fighters.

However, even among the owners of weapons, there is now a growing understanding that too easy - almost free - access to them leads to cruel and senseless tragedies, which should not exist at the beginning of the XNUMXst century in a generally prosperous and prosperous country. From a self-defense tool, a weapon turns into an instrument of self-destruction, it no longer protects, but destroys people. Josh Sugarmann, founder of the Center for Anti-Violence Politics and author of Every Gun Aims at You, believes that "America has a unique situation: one product for consumers took an entire nation hostage."

Literally on the same day, when Laze was putting up a tempting announcement in his restaurant, a demonstration took place in Washington, where the participants demanded to tighten control over the firearms turnover. Thousands of people marched from the White House to Congress, holding in their hands posters with the names of those who died as a result of shooting in the streets of American cities. In recent weeks, the same actions were organized in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, and New York witnessed a march along the famous Brooklyn Bridge.

All these events were initiated by the movement "A Million Mothers for Tightening Weapons Control", created the day after the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Mentally unbalanced 20-year-old Adam Lanza 14 December last year, shot there in elementary school twenty children and six adults. Now the organization has tens of thousands of members and has branches in hundreds of cities across the country.

After newtown

In recent years, mass killings of people have occurred in the United States with frightening regularity. In 1999, shooting took place at a secondary school in Columbine (Colorado), at 2007 at Virginia Tech University, at 2011, at a voters' meeting with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at 2012, six months before the events in Newtown, - in the movie theater town Aurora (Colorado). The number of deaths - 13, 32, 6 and 12 people, respectively. A total of more than 120 injured. And this is not counting other, not so numerous murders that occur almost daily. In general, according to official government data, more than 10 thousand Americans die each year from firearms.

Whenever a tragedy like Newtown happened, one could hear that it “shocked the whole country”. However, no - or almost no - action was taken by the authorities. The criminals were tried, the victims mourned, and everything returned to normal. After the events in Connecticut, they also began to say that they "shook the whole nation." From TV screens and newspaper pages, painfully familiar and rather insulting statements were made by politicians, public figures, and even the most ordinary Americans. This time, the situation was somewhat different - in Newtown, very young children were killed, at the age of six or seven years old, and what happened there, quite simply, didn’t fit into my head at all.

Television showed portraits of the dead kids, told about the teacher, who tried to shield them from the bullets of the criminal, broadcast a funeral in Newtown. The country was declared a national mourning. America - at least a large part of its population - shuddered with horror, and the pendulum of public opinion swung noticeably in the direction of tightening control over the sale and possession of firearms. According to recent sociological surveys, such measures are now supported by almost 60% of Americans. A year ago they were only 45%.

The reaction of the authorities to the tragedy in Newtown was as fast as it was emotional. Barack Obama said that in the near future in the United States will be a major reform in the sale and possession of firearms. "We must reduce the epidemic of armed violence that is ruining our country," he said, speaking in the White House.

Developed within the next month, "comprehensive measures" to tighten arms control were entrusted to Vice President Joseph Biden. "I will promote these proposals without any delays," Obama assured.

He confirmed that he respects historical traditions and, together with the majority of Americans, supports the second amendment to the US Constitution. However, he said, it is necessary to abandon old stereotypes, including in the field of culture, which "praise weapons and violence".

The right to purchase and carry weapons is guaranteed to US citizens in the second amendment to the Constitution adopted in 1791, which reads: "Since a well-organized militia is necessary to ensure the security of a free state, the people's right to store and bear arms must not be violated."

In 2008, the US Supreme Court upheld this right, explaining that it extends not only to "militias" who in olden days formed the basis of the armed forces, but also to all Americans who want to have weapons for self-defense or hunting.

First steps

Neither Obama, who recently confessed that he likes to shoot at a squad in a country residence at Camp David, nor Biden, who has two own pistols at home, does not intend to attempt the second amendment. Speaking at the congress with the message “On the state of the country,” the president said about the control of arms that “other times have come” and it’s time, they say, to change the rules of the game.

He intends to change them with the help of a whole set of measures, which the group, under the leadership of Biden, developed, as promised, by mid-January. Announcing these steps, Obama warned that to completely prevent all potential tragedies, of course, will not work. “But if we can save at least one life, then our duty is to try to do it,” the head of the administration added.

He said that he signed executive decrees that would help the police fight crime, improve safety in schools and expand programs to help mentally unbalanced people. In particular, schools will now be able to strengthen protection in their territories, and federal agencies will expand the exchange of information on potentially dangerous persons seeking to acquire firearms.

At the same time, Obama called on Congress to approve a number of bills that will also help tighten control over the arms trade in the country. He suggested that lawmakers introduce a ban on the sale of military-type multiply-charged automatic rifles and oblige arms dealers to carefully check the data on all buyers in order to prevent the acquisition of rifles and pistols by those who were previously at odds with the law. In addition, the president proposed to allocate funds for research on the harmful effects on the human psyche of video games using scenes of murder and violence.

Representatives of the Democratic Party in Congress decided not to postpone the matter indefinitely, and a week later the senator from the state of California Dianne

Feinstein introduced a bill banning the sale of so-called assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons with clips with a capacity of more than 10 cartridges. The document will get 158 models of small arms, including the Bushmaster rifle, which was armed with Lanza. Previously sold similar models will remain with their owners, but will be recorded in a special database. Sports and hunting rifles are not prohibited.

In the time of President Bill Clinton, the US has already passed a law prohibiting the sale and possession of such weapons. Developed it, by the way, Joseph Biden, who worked then in the Senate. The document was designed for 10 years, and its validity expired in 2004. As stated by Fainstein, since "more than 350 people were killed with assault rifles, and more 450 were injured." "We are outraged at how easily those who commit these horrible crimes get access to powerful military weapons," the senator said.

Fearing bans, many Americans rushed to buy semi-automatic rifles and carbines, and the largest in the country, the trading network of department stores "Wall-Mart" has already reported that the shelves in its weapons departments are significantly emptied. Meanwhile, the Feinstein bill was criticized by both opponents and supporters of tighter arms control. The first stated that they were speaking at all against any restrictions, the latter called the proposals of Feinstein half-measures.

Indeed, some models of semi-automatic rifles that have the same characteristics as those that fall under the ban will still be allowed for sale. For example, a self-loading carbine "Ruger Mini 14" with a folding butt will disappear from the sale, however other options will remain on the market.

“This makes no sense,” said FBI official Edmund Mireles, who was badly injured in a shootout with criminals in Miami. “Both models are equally dangerous.”

With his opinion, the leading specialist of the forensic laboratory of the University of Chicago Mark Jones agrees. According to him, "the two models differ only externally," but have the same power, and both can be used with an 30-charging magazine.

Another bill that is being prepared by the chairman of the Senate’s Legal Committee, Patrick Leahy, should tighten the checks on those who intend to acquire small arms. By law, it is forbidden to own them to people with criminal backgrounds, drug addicts and people with mental disorders. Sellers are obliged to check documents and questionnaires filled out by buyers, but often this procedure is formal. Yes, and the necessary information in the databases is sometimes simply impossible to find.

Leah wants to oblige medical institutions to provide authorities with information about patients with mental illness, recalling that almost all the massacres in recent years have been committed by just such people. However, many lawyers believe that here he is stepping on thin ice, because he encroaches on medical secrecy. Yes, and Adam Lanza, they remind, he did not buy a rifle and pistols, but pulled them out of the safe of his own mother, who also died from his hands.

Thus, the problem of arms control has to be considered not only from the point of view of combating crime and ensuring public security, but also from the legal, cultural and moral-ethical points of view. Discussions on this topic are not only on TV screens and newspaper pages, but also in the classrooms of American universities and the walls of the congress.

In early February, a hearing began in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was immediately called historic in the United States. Along with the authorities, the most ordinary Americans, including those who suffered from armed attacks, spoke at them. However, there was no unity of opinion as to who was to blame and what to do.

One of the speakers, Suzanna Grache Happ, told how in 1991 her parents, along with two dozen visitors to a cafe in the city of Killeen, Texas, were shot by a murderer who had rushed in. Happ, who was also there, but miraculously survived, regrets that she had to leave her gun in the car, because state laws do not allow weapons to be brought to restaurants. "I do not consider myself a victim of armed violence," said a woman who now works in the power structures of Texas. "I see myself as a victim of a maniac who used a gun as a tool to attack." And I consider myself a victim of the legislators that we had at that time and left me defenseless. "

Sandra Wortham, working in the Chicago police, looks at this problem in a completely different way. Her brother, also a policeman, was killed in 2010, when, together with his father, he shot at the robbers in the courtyard of his parents' house. “They were both armed, but that did not prevent the death of Thomas,” she said.

The main sensation was the appearance at the hearing of Gabrielle Giffords, who has not yet recovered from the most serious wounds and has to learn how to walk and talk anew. After the tragedy in Newtown, she, together with her husband, NASA's former astronaut, Mark Kelly, created an organization that proclaimed its goal to combat armed violence. The meaning of her appeal to the legislators was one word: "Enough!"

This call has already been heard by many politicians, and not only at the federal, but also at the local level. In February, Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo signed the most stringent "anti-gun" law in the country, which tightens the ban on "assault" weapons on its territory, limits the number of cartridges in the cage and provides for more thorough verification of information about buyers. Similar documents are being developed now in several states.

NSA strikes back

However, the powerful "arms lobby" is not going to surrender without a fight. The National Shooting Association (NSA) of the United States, defending the interests of producers and arms dealers, remained silent for a week after the events in Connecticut, and then launched a counteroffensive. For the information attack deployed on all fronts - on television, in newspapers, at congressional hearings and meetings with voters, great powers were gathered: the executive director of the NSA, Wayne Lapierre, the president of the organization David Keen and the member of its leadership, the former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson .

The price of the issue is hundreds of billions of dollars. Americans are the most armed nation in the world. According to various estimates, in the hands of the inhabitants of the country are about 280 million units of firearms, that is, almost one for each, including infants and decrepit old women. This, of course, is only about legally acquired and registered pistols, rifles and machine guns. Together with the illegal weapons number will be even greater. Naturally, it is not the US forces that are meant, but ordinary citizens using the second amendment to the Constitution.

It is this amendment that the NSA is trying to cover now. The old arguments are also in play: they are shooting, they say, not pistols, but people. It is necessary to fight not with weapons, but with crime. "A gun is an instrument. The problem is in the criminal, "said Wayne Lapierre in an interview with the NBC television company. And his only recommendation on how to stop armed violence was to ... increase the number of the same weapons. In his first press conference after the Connecticut massacre, he proposed the introduction of armed guards in all American schools, adding that "the best remedy against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Press conference Lapier, held in the chic capital of the hotel "Willard", twice interrupted by noisy protests penetrated into the hall activists of public organizations. And the words about "guys with guns" outraged many politicians, sparked sharp criticism in respectable print media and malicious responses in the "yellow" press. The New York Daily News newspaper called the head of the NSA "the most insane person on Earth".

However, a little later - on sound reflection - many agreed with Lapierre, remembering that the country already had a program to provide schools with armed guards. According to the Ministry of Education, it now covers 28% of secondary schools. They want to expand the program, and a bill is being drafted in the House of Representatives to allocate additional funds for this purpose.

Apparently, many US lawmakers in recent months have really changed their attitude to the problem of arms control. Including even those who received financial assistance from the NSA. "Armory Lobby" sponsors about half of senators and congressmen, the overwhelming majority of whom are Republicans. Now they recognize that it is urgent to take some measures.

Tightening control over firearms in order to prevent tragedies such as the one that occurred in Newtown could become one of the main domestic political tasks during the second term of Barack Obama’s rule. However, it will not be easy to do. The NSA is not only not going to give up, but can still count on the support of its long-standing and influential supporters. One of them - Republican Senator Lindsey Graham - bluntly stated that he did not support the bill banning "assault" weapons. According to him, "such a ban did not work in the past and will not work now." Former Senator Joseph Lieberman predicts that a battle will break out on these issues in US Congress. Feinstein is aware of this. However, she adds, "this battle is worth it."


The largest mass killings in the US in the last 15 years

April 1999 years. Two teenagers staged a massacre in high school in Columbine (Colorado): a teacher and 12 students were killed, another 20 was wounded, and they themselves were shot.

April 2007 years. A student at the Virginia Technological University in Blacksberg, a native of South Korea, Cho Xen-hee killed a man in the campus 32, nearly as many wounded, he himself shot himself.

January 2011 years. 22-year-old Jared Lochner fired indiscriminately during a meeting between US Rep. Gabriel Giffords and voters in Tucson, Ariz., Killing six people and injuring 13 people.

July 2012 years. 25-year-old James Holmes shot at the premiere of a film about Batman in the cinema of the city of Aurora (Colorado) 12 man injured 58.

December 2012 years. 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot 20 children aged six to seven years and six adults in the Newtown (Connecticut) elementary school, himself shot himself.

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