US & Canada

Dear Mr Obama... gun law messages for the US president

Guns Image copyright European photopress agency

President Barack Obama has unveiled new restrictions on gun purchases which will require all sellers of firearms in the US to carry out background checks on buyers. Mr Obama says he has received "too many letters" not to act on the issue - but opponents claim his executive actions on gun laws are unconstitutional.

The BBC World Service programme World Have Your Say asked its audience what they would put in their own letters to the president on this issue. Here's what they told us:

The Second Amendment

Restrictions on gun ownership in the US are divisive and highly contentious, and many people believe Obama's new measures are unconstitutional. Barack Obama says his new measures are "entirely consistent" with second amendment, which supports the right to bear arms. But not everybody is convinced:

"President Obama, if you want to control guns in America put forward your amendment to repeal or modify the second amendment to the constitution," says Zardoz Cys, "otherwise keep quiet."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Obama has said inaction on guns is the greatest frustration of his presidency

John Sweeney Jr is also unconvinced that Obama's new regulations are compatible with the second amendment. "The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads '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'," says Sweeney, "so, Mr President, that means anything you do... will infringe on the people's rights and thus violates the constitution."

In her message addressed for Barack Obama, posted on the World Have Your Say Facebook page, Lanie Bergman from Brooklyn, New York, argues "gun ownership should be limited to persons under the supervision of an organization designated to ensuring the security of a free State". Drawing a comparison with car ownership she says "gun licenses should require practical evidence of proficiency and a written test about the gun laws of the state in which they reside".

Image copyright Facebook

Fellow New Yorker Joel Chesky Salomon wants the president to "re-read the Second Amendment, particularly the absolute prohibition on government from infringing on owning or carrying a gun".

He goes on to propose alternatives to Obama's new laws. "Encourage the teaching of gun safety in schools. Have the Justice Department crack down on States who are unconstitutionally restricting firearms ownership from law-abiding citizens," he suggests, and "ask Congress to repeal Federal laws which create 'gun-free' zones".

Messages of support

President Obama says his new measures are backed by the majority of gun-owners in America, and some messages support his effort to control gun ownership.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption People have been calling for the "gun-show loophole" to be closed

Jennifer Speller in the German city of Frankfurt says it is time for a clampdown. "Guns clearly should require a lot of training to be able to own one and use it properly," she says.

"You should have a licence to prove you are in a position to control the weapon safely. This is the case in Germany and something I believe the US would do well to follow if they want to encourage safe gun use. Proper background checks need to be in place so that certain people never get their hands on a gun."

Mary Cooper in Queensland, Australia, urges Obama to "stand strong on the issue".

Image copyright Twitter

"Although you have a lot of ignorant people against you, you are doing the right thing," she says.

"I suggest a buy-back on automatic and semi-automatic weapons, ensure all gun owners have their precious weapons in a lockable cabinet, better background checks, and make gun licences compulsory to ensure guns cannot just be bought in haste."

And writing to the president from New Jersey, Randy Bishop says he is "tired of seeing gun violence" in America.

"It breaks my heart," he says. "I'm also tired of seeing people hold tight to their guns because of the constitution or just because they're enthusiastic about them. I say, do everything you can to keep them off the streets. Keep our children safe, Keep your fellow Americans safe.

"Growing up seeing shooting deaths on the news every single day is not something that should be normal and it is normal. Keep America safe as best as you can. We don't need the guns here, they're killing us."

Police and thieves

Under Obama's new measures, the FBI will increase its staff to handle more background checks. But opinion is divided over which gun users pose the greater threat - criminals, the police, or the government.

Jaysin Clifton from Virginia questions why the president "will let the cops have military grade weapons to shoot kids over marijuana".

"Seems to me the citizens have a right to bear arms and not the cops," he says. "In the US we are all supposed to be equal. Why doesn't Obama executive order a minimum wage increase, or champion unions if he really cares about citizens?"

Clifton's concerns are echoed by Wendy Sherwood King in North Carolina. "Take guns away from police!" she writes. "Take army equipment away from police. Make lobbying illegal. Take big business out of government."

Image copyright Faecbook

Adrian Moore from Britain believes Barack Obama is wasting his time. "There are already too many guns in your country. The reality is that only law-abiding citizens would comply with any gun laws," he says.

"Criminals and gang members will carry on regardless. Better education and lifting people out of crime and poverty is your answer with respect and common sense for all."

Michael Windwalker from Washington state agrees. "Mr President, I do find it more than a tad ironic that you run around with armed guards that have firearms while trying to restrict firearms for your constituents," he writes.

"Criminals do not follow laws. Lets face it - the shootings where the legal firearm owner is the shooter makes up less than 10%. The vast majority of those homicides come from stolen weapons."

Image copyright AP / Ralph Barrera

President Obama is also asking Congress to spend $500m (£339m) to improve access to mental healthcare. It is one area where Republicans and Democrats may agree, and it is an issue raised by Mona Buck, a nurse from Virgina.

"The problem isn't the guns, it's that our country decided to stop helping the mentally ill in the 1980s," she writes.

"State hospitals were closed with no alternatives in place for people who are truly ill and need residential care. If there was a functioning mental health system, instead of a underfunded, overworked system, there would be fewer 'domestic tragedies' - and fewer Columbines and Auroras and Sandy Hooks.

"If a $5 (£3.40) tax was put on every box of ammo, every weapon, and the money used to fund mental health hospitals, it could make a real difference."

Cherished arms

Among the arguments over the constitutional right to bear arms, who should and should not be allowed to own a firearm, and whether money and effort would be better spent improving job prospects and healthcare, there are gun owners who simply do not want to be parted from their weapons.

Barry Congrove from Cincinnatti pleads "Dear Mr President, my guns have never hurt anyone. Some of them have been handed down over three generations. I intend to hand some down to my children. Please don't infringe on my rights."