Bill Atwood’s latest anti-Obama column (Sierra Star, Jan. 7) illustrates perfectly just how disconnected from reality Bill has become.
First, a bit of fact-checking. Bill refers to president Obama as a “former Harvard law professor.” In fact, the president graduated from Harvard Law before teaching constitutional law for 12 years at the University of Chicago. But facts are of little interest to Bill when insulting the president, ranking well behind fear-mongering and schoolyard invective.
Mr. Atwood would have re-titled a recent Fresno Bee article “Obama Snubs the American People and Their Constitutional Rights.” But there’s a little problem with Bill’s logic. We live in a country governed by majority rule, not by a well-funded and vocal minority.
Consider these facts:
* In an October 2015 Gallup poll, 86% of Americans favored universal background checks for all gun purchases - the exact result Mr. Obama is trying to achieve.
* A survey from Quinnipiac University last April found that Americans back such background checks 91%. Most importantly, voters in gun-owning households say the same, with 88% support.
* Finally, U.S. News & World Report in 2013 reported that 75% of NRA members support universal background checks.
Even though a whopping majority of Americans agree with universal background checks, conservative Republican lawmakers disagree and vote accordingly, almost without exception. And by no coincidence, those same lawmakers take huge donations from the NRA. They consistently ignore their constituents and vote in favor of the NRA. If anyone is snubbing the American people, it’s the Republicans in the United States Congress.
Next, Bill engages in some truly baffling fear mongering about a future chief executive simply casting aside Roe v. Wade or the 22nd Amendment in a fit of pique. Can’t happen, Bill. No way. Ask any high school junior and he or she will explain the Constitution to you.
Atwood is persistently outraged by what he perceives as president Obama’s disregard of the Constitution. It would be interesting to learn how bothered Bill was by the Cheney-Bush administration’s resolute goal of creating an imperial presidency, unfettered by a meddling Congress or Supreme Court.
Bill can’t resist trotting out the favorite rant of pro-gun extremists, that anything standing between an American and an AK-47 is the first step down that slippery slope to confiscation. Does anyone with an ounce of common sense really believe this president (or any future president) would invite certain impeachment - or worse - should he or she even utter the words “firearms” and “confiscation” in the same sentence?
Mr. Obama has stated repeatedly that he supports the Second Amendment. His modest goal is reducing the number of guns falling into the hands of individuals who do not meet legally established criteria for ownership.
This is reasonable to most Americans, but not to the NRA.
NRA leadership has been flogging this issue for decades, becoming so shrill and irrational under Charleton Heston and Wayne LaPierre that president George H. W. Bush resigned his life membership in disgust. The NRA is funded in large part by gun manufacturers, and has seized on fear mongering as a very effective strategy for selling guns for them.
Bill wants us to believe the Second Amendment was added to “keep the government and tyrants at bay.” Not even close, Bill. Like many other right-wingers, Bill carefully avoids the first clause of the Amendment. “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” is the part they ignore, preferring “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Even a casual review of The Federalist Papers reveals what the Founding Fathers had in mind. They understandably did not want a large standing army among them, having just shed British rule enforced by their Redcoats. But they accepted the possibility of another armed conflict, and wanted teachers, farmers and shopkeepers to be trained and ready - a “well regulated militia.”
They were talking about what we now call the National Guard and Reserves, not a gang of armed, angry farmers taking over a government facility in Oregon.
While there was a spike in guns sales after Mr. Obama’s elections, Bill’s idea that fear of terrorism caused it is incorrect. Bloomberg Business reported in 2014 that most gun buyers gave an unsubstantiated fear that a liberal Democratic president would take away their guns. That irrational fear was created, promoted, and relentlessly repeated by the NRA.
An issue this important deserves thoughtful, informed discussion. President Obama attended a Town Hall meeting in Virginia last week and engaged in a calm, rational dialogue with both pro-gun and anti-gun speakers. The NRA declined to attend. Should the headline read, “NRA Snubs the American People?”