Barack Obama Gets Gun Policy Wrong in a Speech in Brazil

Jose Nino Comments

Although he’s out of office, former President Barack Obama has not stopped voicing his political opinions.

With gun control constantly being one of the most polarizing issues in America, it makes sense that Obama would offer his two cents on the matter, even while out of office.

Recently, Obama did just that, taking advantage of a trip to Brazil to lament to his audience about the horrors of American gun control laws. 

At the VTEX Day digital conference hosted in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the former president recounted the emotional distress he felt after the Sandy Hook massacre. Obama expressed his sorrow:

“The most difficult day that I’ve had, was the day where there was a shooting at a school. Uh, where, 20 small children were shot, as well as some teachers.”

He added, “I had to go and comfort the parents.” However, this speech was not just filled with sorrow.

Obama went on to score anti-gun talking points. The 44th president claimed that anyone can purchase a gun without having to go through much regulation. Plus, he stated that machine guns can be purchased online. 

Obama told his Brazilian audience: 

“Some of you may be aware our gun laws in the United States don’t make much sense. Anybody can buy any weapon any time — without much if any regulation, they can buy it over the Internet, they can buy machine guns.”

Obama’s assertions throughout this speech are not only misleading, but some are flat out wrong.

For starters, every gun owner in America must go through a federal background check in order to acquire a firearm. Further, machine guns have been subject to stringent federal regulations since the National Firearms Act was enacted in 1934, as the federal government didn’t stop regulating machine guns from there.

From 1986 and onward, civilians could only acquire machine guns that were “lawfully registered and possessed before May 19, 1986,” according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Hughes Amendment of the Firearm Owners Protection Act included this provision and has made the possession of machine guns overwhelmingly cost prohibitive for the average gun owner. 

Obama’s talk in Brazil is rather ironic given the South American country’s high crime rates and draconian gun control laws. Brazil had a homicide rate of 30.8 homicides per 100,000 people in 2017 and ranks among the most violent countries in the world. Gun ownership is not a right in Brazil and the average resident must jump through a complex maze of regulatory hoops such as registration and extensive background checks. As a result of such restrictions, only 3.5 percent of Brazilians owned firearms before 2004. 

If anything, Brazilians should be lectured on the benefits having looser gun control policies.

The good news is that the recent election of President Jair Bolsonaro has seen Brazil’s gun policy shift towards a more pro-gun direction with Bolsonaro signing an executive order that would loosen restrictions on gun ownership.

Gun policy might be a touchy subject, but policymakers and commentators would be wise to discard loaded soundbites and instead do more thorough research on the matter. A proper firearms policy of freedom would be a life-saver for many individuals.

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