Obama vs. AK-47s

AFP Photo / Adek Berry
In a passionate plea delivered this week to address gun rights in America in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado massacre, US President Barack Obama asked for the country to reconsider just who can have access to high power firearms.

President Obama fell short of demanding repeal to US the gun laws during a Wednesday evening address, but he did raise opposition over the ease in which assault rifles and automatic weapons, such as AK-47s, can fall into the hands of dangerous criminals.

"A lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals – that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities,"  the president claimed during an address before the National Urban League.

From 1994 to 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons ban prohibited the manufacture of certain semi-automatic firearms for US civilians. After expiring eight years ago, though, the legislation has ended and  automatic and semi-automatic weapons are once again more readily available. The Obama administration has unsuccessfully rallied to reinstate the ban during the three years of his first term, but the surge of discussion following last week’s theater shooting in Aurora has once again propelled the issue into the limelight.

While the president did not demand the reintroducing of the Assault Weapons Ban in as many words, he attacked the ease in which Americans are able to get their hands on such guns.

"I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily," he said. "These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense."

President Obama did not go as far as to alienate his more constitutional minded supporters during Wednesday night’s address, acknowledging that he does have faith in the Bill of Rights provision that protects the authority for Americans to own guns. He said, "I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms.And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation.” The president did argue, though, political games have mutated what should be a more honest discussion about gun rights in America.

"When there is an extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy like the one we saw, there's always an outcry immediately after for action. And there's talk of new reforms, and there's talk of new legislation," Obama said. "And too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere."

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican Party nominee to challenge President Obama this fall, has in the past pledged his support of the Second Amendment and said he believes that guns “protect us and provide for our safety.” While serving as governor, however, Mr. Romney signed a ban on assault weapons that still exists today, allowing neither candidate enough clout to come after their opponent.