President Obama's push for gun control begins today with a debate on Capitol Hill on what measures will be included in proposed legislation. However, many Second Amendment advocates say the proposals are about increasing political capital, not personal safety.
The debate in the U.S. Senate will focus on which of the president's recommendations will be included in legislation designed to reduce gun violence in America. Obama has sought support for expanded background checks, banning assault rifles and limiting the number of rounds available in a firearm's magazine.
"Nothing in the proposed legislation has been proven to be effective," said Emmitt Kelley, owner of the Gun Emporium, located at 11400 FM 2854 in Conroe. "It's been tried before and it doesn't work."
The only effect, Kelley said, is to harass and restrict honest, law-abiding citizens who own and use firearms in a legal, conscientious manner. New laws won't prevent those intent on violence from acquiring and using weapons and magazines that are made illegal by legislative mandate.
Michael Morrison, a Conroe gunsmith with more than 40 years of experience, agreed.
"Bad people do bad things," Morrison said. "A deranged student stabbed 14 people at Lone Star College on Tuesday -- next thing you know, Washington will want to outlaw knives."
Morrison is convinced the proposed legislation is a knee-jerk reaction to recent tragedies in which dozens of people have been killed and wounded in premeditated assaults. He believes elected officials are attempting to demonstrate their leadership by pushing for restrictive gun legislation -- knowing it will do nothing to address the problem.
"We've had background checks for more than 40 years," Morrison said. "If someone wants a gun, there are ways around background checks."
The clamor over assault rifles is even more offensive, Morrison said, because they are essentially the same as hunting rifles. They shoot the same ammunition, have the same capacity and the same killing power. He said it is their tactical appearance, not their mechanical abilities, that have attracted the attention of lawmakers.
Rather than focus on new restrictive measures, Kelley suggested elected officials focus on enforcing existing legislation. He's not alone.
According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data-gathering research group run by Syracuse University, Chicago is ranked last out of 90 federal jurisdictions in terms of addressing gun violence and gun-ownership violations. Obama's home state is Illinois.
TRAC noted that there were 52 prosecutions in northern Illinois, in a population of 5.52 million, in 2012. Nationwide, the number of federal weapons prosecutions has decreased nearly every year -- from a high of 11,015 in 2004 to 7,774 in 2012, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
In 2010, of the 6 million Americans who attempted to buy a gun, around 76,000 were denied. Of those, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives referred 4,732 cases for prosecution. Of these, 44 people were actually prosecuted and 13 were punished.
"We need to address the root cause of violence," Kelley said, "not dream up new laws that aren't fair and unlikely to benefit society."
Beyond the current round of suggested restrictions, Kelley is concerned such action sets the stage for further restrictions on gun ownership by the government.
"It's the transition from a free society to a Marxist, totalitarian regime," Kelley said. "It's like reading a book and seeing history repeat itself. It's been done before in other societies and it's a bad omen of things to come."
Whatever the U.S. Senate decides, proposed measures will go to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives before it can go to the president and become law. Political analysts anticipate a harder fight in the House, where Republicans, and some Democrats, have announced their opposition to expanded gun control.
"Overwhelmingly, my constituents want me to protect their Second Amendment rights," U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, said. "More gun restrictions, when this White House has presided over a 40 percent drop in weapons prosecutions, is clearly not the answer. We already have strong gun laws in place. Senate efforts to add new laws when the number of federal punishments totaled just 13 in 2010 will not make my kids -- or yours -- safer at school."
And while Congress debates the issue on a federal level, state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, and Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, are sponsoring House Bill 1076, which states that federal statutes made after Jan. 1, 2013, that regulate firearms, firearm accessories, ammunition or other restrictive firearms regulations -- including new background checks -- are not enforceable in Texas.
Whether state law trumps federal law in terms of gun control is unclear in the event both measures pass.
"The Founding Fathers affirmed the right of citizens to be armed to fight tyranny and defend themselves," Morrison said. "God created man -- Sam Colt (founder of Colt firearms) made them equal."