Election 2012: Should Gun Control Become a Campaign Issue?

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The senseless violence in Aurora, Colorado after James Holmes allegedly shot and killed twelve people at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises has many Americans calling for drastically stricter gun laws. Except President Obama and likely Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

In a speech to the Urban League, President Obama said he advocated for closing some gun law loopholes. On NBC, Governor Romney noted stricter laws would not prevent future shootings, suggesting other reasons for violence such as mental illness (which gun laws don’t address). Both men were quick to express their condolences to the friends and families of the victims that died by weapons and ammunition bought legally.

This is the latest in a long, bloodstained list of mass shootings, including Virginia Tech where thirty-three people (including the gunman) died; the Tucson tragedy where six were killed and others were injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; and the shooting less than twenty miles from Aurora at Columbine High School that resulted in thirteen victims.

The Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence has fought to tighten our gun control laws by pushing legislation and issuing reports. Since 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns led by New York City’s Michael Bloomberg and 600 other mayors are working to close gun-purchase loopholes, like not conducting background checks. After the theater shooting, they partnered with Tuscon shooting survivors and family members to demand a plan from both President Obama and Governor Romney to end gun violence. This can be seen in this full-page ad that appeared in USA Today.

Critics point to the power of the gun lobby, especially the National Rifle Association (NRA) which watchdog website Open Secrets notes has spent millions of dollars lobbying politicians to oppose gun restrictions. The NRA firmly believes guns don’t kill, rather people kill and vow to defend the second amendment to our Constitution which states: 

“A well regulated, militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

It’s in the interpretation: advocates argue owning a gun is a constitutional right that allows people to defend themselves, although a recent Mayors Against Illegal Guns poll shows gun owners overwhelming support some controls, as do surveyed Latinos. Those in favor of gun control believe more regulation is needed to keep them out of the hands of the mentally ill or criminals.

I personally support tighter gun laws, despite being mugged at gunpoint soon after moving to Washington, DC. I also believe someone who hunts should be able to legally obtain a gun. But why would any regular person need semi-assault weapons and enough ammo to blow a city block off the face of the earth as the accused Aurora gunman was able to stockpile? 

No major gun control legislation has passed in more than a decade. Will it become a campaign issue? Likely not, in part because the economy and jobs are top issues for voters. 

Tell Us: Do you believe gun control should become a top campaign issue?

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.

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