Barack Obama down but not out after ‘round one’ in fight for gun law reform - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 18 April 2013

President Barack Obama faced a major setback in his quest to reform gun control laws in the US this week when politicians blocked a measure designed to restrict sales.


Barack Obama down but not out after ‘round one’ in fight for gun law reform

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 18 April 2013


By Darren Evans

President Barack Obama faced a major setback in his quest to reform gun control laws in the US this week when politicians blocked a measure designed to restrict sales.

The president has been determined to change America's gun laws since 20 young children and six adults were killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December.

That incident, which came just five months after 12 people were killed in another mass shooting in a cinema, caused a national outrage and prompted the president to act.

But Mr Obama knew it was not going to be easy to change his country's gun laws because they are enshrined in the Constitution. Many reject the idea of tampering with the Constitution, arguing that it is the country's foundation.

The document's Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, and many Americans are enthusiastic gun owners. In fact, according to recent statistics there are around 89 guns in private ownership for every 100 US citizens, more than any other country.

Gun owners are also backed by the National Rifle Association of America (NRA), a wealthy and powerful group that puts pressure on politicians to keep things the way they are.

Currently Americans who buy guns from registered gun shops have to go through background checks to see if they have any criminal convictions, but a loophole in the law means they can buy guns online and at gun shows without having to do so.

This week politicians in the US Senate put forward a measure to close this loophole, but it was blocked by Republican politicians and even some members of Mr Obama's own Democrat party in the US Congress, who were lobbied by the NRA.

Proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for guns were also blocked, but this had been predicted.

Mr Obama was angry, calling it a "shameful day for Washington". However, he is determined to press ahead, and said he saw this as "round one" in the fight for reform.

"Sooner or later, we are going to get this right," he added.




Questions:

  • Some people believe that "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun". Do you agree? Discuss your answer.
  • Besides reforming gun laws, what else do you think could be done to help prevent mass shootings?
  • In America laws are made and reformed through a voting process, rather than the President having total power to decide. What do we call a system like this? What are the benefits and drawbacks of such a system?
  • Some members of the Democrat party were "lobbied by the NRA." What is 'lobbying' and how does this practice affect decisions made by a government?

Resources for you


Guns in the United States

  • Facts and figures about gun ownership in the US.

American beliefs and values

  • Explore the American constitution with this handy PowerPoint.

Powers of the President

  • Discover the role the president plays within the US political system.

Gun crime

  • A range of comprehension, analytical and writing tasks on the theme of gun crime.


Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week


The funeral of Baroness Thatcher took place today, with thousands of people gathering in central London for the event and much of the UK capital brought to a standstill.

A huge earthquake which struck south-east Iran near the border with Pakistan, has flattened homes and offices.

North Korea is today celebrating the 101st anniversary of the birth of its founding father, amid ongoing threats of nuclear war from the secretive communist country.

Margaret Thatcher, who died of a stroke was arguably Britain’s most divisive post-war prime minister, and her legacy still looms large in UK politics.



In the news archive index