Obama’s gun reforms are only the beginning

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) unveils a series of proposals to counter gun violence as Vice President Joe Biden looks on during an event at the White House...
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) unveils a series of proposals to counter gun violence as Vice President Joe Biden looks on during an event at the White House...
Jason Reed/Reuters

After accepting recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama Wednesday revealed 23 executive actions and policy recommendations to reduce gun violence.

During the early afternoon press conference, the president was surrounded by children and families of the Sandy Hook Elementary school victims. Obama proposed incentives, background checks, rule-making, and training that will lead to safer gun practices in the United States. This past weekend, host Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel discussed several avenues for gun control that can be explored in conjunction with the comprehensive legislation measures proposed by the president.

Michael Skolnik of globalgrind.com recommended on Sunday that we use a holistic approach to curbing gun violence. “How do we look at young people who might be potential shooters?” he asked, adding that it’s important to be proactive about these issues rather than reacting to incidents such as the Sandy Hook shooting.

Yale law professor Tracey Meares agreed with Skolnik about broader methods, proposing that we also “recognize this issue for what it is…a public health issue.”

Meares noted the large number of gun-related injuries that occur alongside mass attacks. What is significant about these injuries is that they were not all inflicted by malicious people, but that it included suicides and a fair number of accidents. With this, reform such as background check mandates will not be effective in ending pervasive gun violence.

In searching for a suitable policy, a major consideration has been to reach a balance between safety and the Second Amendment, something the National Rifle Association has been vocal about in their lobbies.

The NRA is not the only group leaning on the second amendment for protection, said Fordham Law professor Nicholas Johnson. Johnson stated that there is an entire “community of innocents,” people who use guns for good reason, with an interest of self-defense. Harris-Perry noted that in the 1960s, the Black Panthers—a group much like the innocents mentioned by Johnson—took up arms to protect themselves from the police who often times used excessive and unnecessary force against African Americans. Fully compliant with the California laws at the time, the Panthers publicly displayed their firearms, exercising their right to bear arms.

Regardless of what the president decides for new gun policy and whether or not it adheres to the Second Amendment, violence as a solution to conflict will still continue in areas with inadequate policing. Tio Hardiman of CeaseFire Illinois works in dangerous situations to prevent gun violence and other crime in high-risk areas.

“Violence is learned behavior and it’s passed down from generation to generation,” says Hardiman, stating that the only way to stop gun violence is to change the mindset of the people who create it. “It’s all about the thinking.”

In the CeaseFire organization, workers mediate conflicts and help people un-learn violent behavior. Hardiman preaches the idea that “violence spreads like an infectious disease,” and that all genocide, slavery, and other deplorable acts are due to the dispersion of an ill mentality, not guns.

In reaction to Hardiman and as a supporter of his organization, Michael Skolnik urged that we “make sure we put adequate funding into these programs” as a part of the new regulations.  “These folks [like Hardiman] are heroes.”

See more of our conversation below.


Obama's gun reforms are only the beginning