Tuesday, January 15, 2013
- by Rep. Scott DesJarlais
It is hard to imagine anything more horrific than the December shooting that took place in Newtown, Conn. By the end of that fateful day, we learned that 20 first-graders and six educators had been shot and killed by a deranged gunman. As a nation, we came together to pray and offer our deepest condolences to those who had lost a loved one. In the days and weeks following Sandy Hook, my office received numerous calls and letters from residents in Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District. It was touching to read and listen to these heartfelt expressions of sympathy.
Many of the individuals who contacted my office were concerned parents who wanted to know what we could do to ensure something like this never happens again. As a parent with three school aged children of my own, I share their concerns. Our children are our greatest treasure and should be treated as such.
But while the overwhelming majority of parents I have spoken with recognize the need to enact sensible measures to protect our children, they are deeply concerned that this administration is using the tragedy at Sandy Hook as way to limit their Second Amendment rights.
It is not surprising that the issue of gun control has grabbed headlines, especially after President Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden to lead a taskforce with the goal of developing a package of proposals to curb gun violence.
Unfortunately, so far it seems that the administration is more focused on attacking our Second Amendment rights than truly addressing the underlying causes of gun violence. In fact, the president has stated on numerous occasions that he has no problem bypassing Congress through the use of executive orders to achieve his gun control objectives.
Lawful gun owners in my district have good reason for concern. This administration has a long track record of circumventing the Congress. The president bypassed the Senate confirmation process in appointing his “czars,” allowed the IRS to re-write portions of ObamaCare, unilaterally changed federal immigration policy and instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The list goes on.
If the White House feels it must resort to the use of an executive order, it would signal that the president knows that his policies cannot pass Congress. Therefore, his actions would be in clear defiance of the will of the American people and our democratic process.
If the president seeks to violate our constitution and degrade our Second Amendment rights, I stand ready to look at any and all available legislative and legal options to protect and maintain our separation of powers. I sincerely hope that the president will abandon this autocratic approach though and instead engage in a meaningful conversation.
I am a proud supporter of our Second Amendment and believe strongly in our right to bear arms. But I am also a parent and want to ensure that our children are kept safe. I, along with the vast majority of my constituents, do not believe these views to be mutually exclusive of one another.
I am reminded of a statement made by former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia that, “It's not a gun control problem; it's a cultural control problem.” There are in fact real issues that Congress should address to ensure our children are protected, but infringing on our Second Amendment rights will not prevent troubled people from committing terrible acts.
We can and must do a better job of ensuring those with mental health issues are identified and receive the support and counseling they need. That starts with making our mental health system more efficient and responsive. We can decide as a nation that we no longer want to promote a culture of violence and work with the key stakeholders to ensure our children are not being bombarded with violent imagery. Finally, we can do a better job of simply enforcing the laws that are already in existence.
President Obama stated that Sandy Hook was the worst day of his presidency. I believe him. But that is not an excuse for the president to use executive orders to push through controversial gun control measures that run counter to the wishes of the majority of the American people.
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Sometimes I read letters from certain individuals and I just wish I hadn't wasted my time. Sometimes some folks should just stay quiet.
Also, most polls taken say that the majority of folks aren't against some type of "assault weapons" legislation. Not something that involves blue helicopters and the U.N., as most are so quick to believe.
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I notice while some people are quick to offer their dislike for an opinion article that someone else wrote, they don’t seem to be able to dispute the statements within the article. They choose rather to attack the writer.
While I understand where and why his comments about the writer come from, I’m much more interested in the subject of the article, and how our elected officials are representing us.
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It is unfortunate that Congressman DesJarlais and many other Republicans are once again willing to stick to their partisan positions after Sandy Hook. We certainly need to have a discourse about mental health, violent movies and violent video games. However, the truth is that the rest of the developed world has these very same issues and yet do not have the level of gun carnage that we have in the United States.
As a soldier and a gun owner, I also love my guns. However, there comes a time when Congressman DesJarlais needs to put partisanship aside and do something for the good of the country. It is time for us to institute universal background checks. How do you even begin to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, if they can easily avoid any checks? We also need to outlaw high capacity magazines. It is one thing for a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan to have a high capacity magazine, but quite another for a civilian. Most deer hunters never fire more than one or two rounds. I believe that the President’s proposal to limit civilian magazines to ten rounds is completely reasonable. If you really think you need to kill something and cannot do it with 10 rounds, well then maybe you need to take up knitting.
On the other hand, I do not agree with the assault weapons ban. There is virtually no difference between an assault weapon and many standard rifles. They are all semi-automatic weapons. The real difference is in the capacity of the magazines and not the weapon itself. Thus, my support for a limit on the capacity of magazines.
While I am a gun owner, I have never been a member of the radical NRA. I find it interesting that an organization which represents slightly more than 1 percent of the electorate can carry such weight on such a critical national issue. Hopefully, Congressman DesJarlais will put aside some of his partisan rhetoric long enough to take the actions that many Americans are calling for in the wake of Sandy Hook and many other mass murders.