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At Last, White House Discusses Executive Order on Guns

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Even the Dickensian sage, Mr. Bumble, may not have felt that the law is a complete ass. Sometimes, the asinine rigidity of the law and its practitioners can be overcome with a little creative thought.

That is why I was delighted that Vice President Biden echoed what I have said now for some time -- that President Obama should issue an executive order banning the sale of semiautomatic guns, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as part of a comprehensive, nationwide package on gun control.

I first urged the president to do so last year, in the wake of the mass killing in Aurora, Colo. At the time that I did so in a piece, titled "Calling for an Executive Order Banning Assault Weapons," I was denigrated by those on the right, who claimed that what I was proposing was unconstitutional, and I was denigrated by those on the left, who claimed that I would hurt President Obama's chances of winning reelection.

Since that original piece, I followed up with several others, in which I continued to call for an executive order on gun control, since, I noted, it was highly unlikely that "a cowardly and intransigent" Congress would pass an assault weapons ban in an election year or any year.

Finally, it seems that the White House has listened to me. But at what cost?

Since I first broached the possibility of an executive order, we have had massacres at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, an Oregon shopping mall, and of course the horrific shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as well as numerous other tragedies on a daily basis in cities like Chicago.

Cynics will claim that an executive order will not last, that it can be reversed by the next president. To them, I say that I would rather save lives the next four years, then do nothing and watch as more massacres transpire.

Others will claim that, as we are a country of roughly 300 million guns, massacres will take place no matter what the president does.

That may be, but I am not so worried about the ordinary gun owner, who uses a hunting rifle or a shot gun. I am much more concerned about assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. As I wrote in a piece last month, just after the Newtown tragedy, had Adam Lanza been carrying a hunting rifle, he would not have gotten very far since the rifle would have been visible to all, and the carnage would have been greatly diminished.

Some will continue to claim that this is an issue about mental illness, not gun ownership. Really? From time immemorial, we have always had angry, frustrated people, some of whom may or may not be mentally ill. That will remain the case in the world, for as long as we exist.

Whatever one thinks of that hothead gun owner who seeks to deport CNN's Piers Morgan, he does not strike me as being mentally ill at all; he is simply an angry, frustrated, volatile man, who, unfortunately, owns many guns.

Nor is Iago, my favorite example of a cold-blooded killer, mentally ill in the least. Like that gun owner on Piers Morgan's show, Iago is angry too, angry and frustrated at his status in life as a relatively unheralded soldier, whereas Cassio and Othello, two better men, who have more honor and courage than Iago, have received promotions.

What we need to do is to keep assault weapons out of the hands of members of the public, whether or not they are angry, violent or mentally ill, because as I have argued, when there is a gun on the mantel in Act I, it is likely to go off by the end of Act III.

As for the issue of violent video games, I certainly do not condone them, but I think that, here too, we are missing the true issue, which is the need to keep assault weapons out of the hands of anyone but those in the military.

As a child, I grew up watching and enjoying the old Warner Brothers gangster movies, starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, George Raft and Edward G. Robinson. Those movies were not nihilistic, as many of today's video games are.

Still, they often presented somewhat sympathetic portraits of criminals, like Cagney's Eddie Bartlett in The Roaring Twenties, Bogart's Roy Earle in High Sierra, and Robinson's title character in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse.

Needless to say, I did not end up as a mobster or a gun-toting killer. As harmless as I am, I and the rest of civilians in this country should be barred from owning military-style weapons.

Vice President Biden is on the right track in finally proposing an executive order banning these weapons and high-capacity magazines. I commend him and President Obama for this.

I only wish that they had implemented such an order last term.