Sunday, December 16, 2012

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2012. (photo: Larry Downing, Reuters)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2012. (photo: Larry Downing, Reuters)

Mr. President, Time to Lead

By Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast
15 December 12

Gun control needs to become a voting issue for millions. Only one person can make that happen.

hen can stricter gun-control laws ever pass? We know exactly when: When 60 senators and 218 members of the House of Representatives are willing to vote for them, and not a moment before. The bleak truth is that we are a long, long, long way from that moment, or at least we were until Friday morning. If anything can change the politics of guns, surely this unspeakable event can. But Barack Obama is going to have to resolve to answer the demand that history has placed on him and spend some (maybe a lot) of his political capital on the issue.
We're about to endure a wrenching week - the week before Christmas no less - reading about these children. Seeing pictures of their beautiful faces, watching their parents submit to those morbid interviews that television makes its business on these grim occasions; hearing what the children were waiting for Santa to bring them. Surely, this has to change things.
I would love to think so. But let's not kid ourselves. In political terms, the odds against change are high, and the reason comes down to this. Right now, there are a few million people for whom gun rights are what is called a voting issue, which is just what it sounds like - an issue that people actively vote on, that is in their heads at the moment they pull the lever. These are the members of the National Rifle Association. The National Rampage Association, as Bob Shrum puts it elsewhere on this site. The National More Dead Children Association would be another way to put it today, because that is in effect what the organization supports.
For how many people is gun control a voting issue? For all intents and purposes, none. Oh, a few thousand; the people who work directly on the issue, and some parents who've lost their children. But that is about it. The scales are badly imbalanced, and until they're closer to in balance, we won't be able to get a law that, for example, permits police to come knock on the door of someone who buys 600 rounds of ammo online, as the Aurora, Colorado shooter did, and ask him about his plans and purposes.
So, how can that imbalance be changed? Only through the two traditional ways. The first is grassroots activism that has a lot of money behind it. Any rich people who care about gun violence out there? Now is the moment to write those checks to the Brady Campaign and other groups that work on this issue, to organize large-scale public-relations campaigns to frame the issue and get people angry and motivated. No change has ever happened in this country without a broad base of support out there, and no twitchy senator or member of Congress is going to vote against the NRA unless he thinks he can do so and survive the next election.
The second is that politicians have to lead, and that starts with Obama of course. He was right yesterday not to push a political agenda; yesterday was just a day to express the nation's grief. But now is the time, starting next week.
He's busy with a lot of other things. He needs to get his tax increase. He needs to win the debt-limit fight. He wants immigration reform, and the Latino groups that represent the voters who backed him so heavily won't let him forget that or drop it.
But history has grabbed him by the lapels here. We've had 14 mass shootings in this country just since he became president. They've all been bad, but this is the one that demands that he stand up--the one that insists that if he does nothing, or does something cautious and half-hearted, he will be judged harshly by future historians for his failure to care about this.
He and he alone can help make this a voting issue for millions. He can do it in an almost nonpartisan way, which is in his comfort zone, talking about these children and the dozens of others whom our society right now regards an acceptable spoilage factor for "freedom"; asking why it should be the case that any regular citizen needs automatic weapons with extended magazines and the aforementioned right to buy limitless ammo with no questions asked.
Did I say he and he alone? Not quite right. I amend that to: He, along with Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg has the standing, the podium, and most crucially, the money to help make this a voting issue. The furious statement Bloomberg released yesterday is exactly right. The time for this fight is now. And only one person can lead it.


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-19 # Michael_K 2012-12-15 13:05
Hmmm. I have very mixed feelings on this. I really hate to see an unarmed and generally law-abiding population disarmed and helplessly stuck between well-armed thugs with badges on the one side, and without badges on the other.

I don't know that there is any satisfactory solution to this.
-11 # randyjet 2012-12-15 21:43
There is a solution and it is to make such venues more risky for killers. That means we need more people who are armed and trained to use guns in defense of others. In schools people such as principals, administrators, maintenance workers and teachers who wish to be armed and trained in the legitimate use of firearms. These firearms should be concealed for a number of reasons. At the beginning of the school day, all those who are armed should report to the office, and get an armband with the color of the day that they can use to show law enforcement people that they are the good guys and should not be shot. We cannot and should not have armed guards in the hallways, so having concealed weapons will not create such an environment and any potential shooter will not know who is armed and who is not.

We trust teachers with the education and lives of our children, so we should also give them the means to protect them. A teacher should not be reduced to only a smile or their body to use to protect their kids. In a confrontation between an armed teacher and a mass murderer, my money is on the teacher as they proved so tragically. They were ferocious using their bodies in a futile attempt to save their kids. I just wish that they had the means to fight back and end this quicker than it was.
-3 # Hey There 2012-12-15 22:17
I agree
+9 # rosross 2012-12-15 22:24
Well there is a satisfactory solution and it is one in place in every other developed nation and it works absolutely fine. Those countries without guns have less crime, don't have 30,000 gunshot deaths every year and don't have half a dozen massacres a year.
It's called being civilized, enlightened and free - something one is led to believe Americans value.
+12 # robniel 2012-12-15 22:36
If you encounter a well-armed thug and you're feeling cocky, statistics say you'll very quickly be lying on the ground sporting a bullet hole if you try to go for your gun. If you draw on a gunman in a crowded venue you're just as likely as the gunman to be fatally shot by someone who couldn't decide who the real shooter was; this almost happened in Arizona when Gabby Gifford was shot. The smart people avoid confrontation, not provoke it.
+1 # 4yourinformation 2012-12-15 22:47
I agree.

Look at Vermont with its super lenient concealed carry laws (or is it unlaws?). The "bluest" state in the union and the least amount of gun control. It's not Dodge City. It's a very stable and community based state that observes libertarian/lef ty values and they don't have crime like the other more heavily regulated states (gun control). It's not about the instruments of killing per se, it's about the most important instrument of control, the human mind and its environment.
+5 # kyzipster 2012-12-16 05:40
Why do you believe that 'gun control' means disarming the public?
+1 # 2012-12-15 20:50
Gun control won't work. There are more than 3 million weapons out there already. What? Are you going to ask people to please, please, please unilaterally disarm themselves? Good luck with that one buddy. The control is in who gets a lawful gun license/FOID card. Require purchase and use of trigger locks, check psych reports(backgro und check). That's about all you can do now.
We need to focus on economical access of the mentally ill to treatment. Right now, there are less facilities for the severely mentally ill than when Reagan was governor of Calif. and dumped them all onto the streets. Look at who the spree shooters were since the 1960s; "troubled youth" comes up a lot in the description of the shooter. Maybe it is PTSD. If a cop kills someone in the line of duty, he/she gets counseling. When a war veteran returns, most having been trained to and actually killed, what do we do? Nothing. This CAN be fixed through legislation.
+3 # Rain17 2012-12-15 21:08
You make great points. Even if you have health insurance receiving decent mental health services is a challenge. Many psychologists and psychiatrists don't take insurance and charge prohibitive rates. Access to high-quality mental health services even with insurance is quite limited.
+5 # smile90803 2012-12-15 22:25
you really think finding the money for that is the place to start? i agree that the mental health issue is important and yes there are millions of unregistered guns out there but if you look the last last bunch of school killings..these aren't career criminals who can find a gun to purchase on the street. these are k-mart shoppers. and why not put limits on purchases of mega ammo. like chris rock said. make the bullets cost 5 grand. i'd kill ya if i could afford it! but seriously. the way to get started is to put restrictions on guns. like we have restrictions on driving a car for chrissake. or liquor. the majority of the people support this and it makes sense. any other starting point is BULLSHIT. you know -i know it. the rest of the issues like mental health will follow. regulate the ammo you lesson the shots. lesson the shots you lessen the killing. tell me i'm wrong.
0 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 08:03
Seriously, the way to get started is to provide jobs, decent salaries and mental health care.
-3 # 4yourinformation 2012-12-15 22:42
Very sensible assessment. I totally agree.
+2 # c.e. taylor 2012-12-16 00:51
grand one (?!),
you're pretty clearly not a right-winger, but you seem to have bought into the gun lobby hysteria that equates "gun control" with the elimination of all guns. Everything you proceed to cite, after declaring gun control unworkable, are in fact examples of gun control that you dismiss as "all you can do now." Although your list is not exhaustive enough, even the measures you cite (mandatory background checks, trigger locks, etc.) are examples of gun controls that need tightening because they are currently riddled with loopholes and/or unenforced for lack of public funding and priority.

What you don't include and should is to make the continued manufacture of assault weapons for civilian sale or civilian ownership of assault weapons illegal. The ban on assault weapons that was already in effect from 1994-2004 should never have been sunseted - and without the stranglehold of the NRA on Congress and the acquiescence of George Bush, it wouldn't have. (As with everything else, if we the people finally revolt for full public financing of campaigns, then of course we could end such strangleholds.)

Meanwhile, I do share your call for far greater attention and resources allocated to mental health. I have worked pro bono providing therapy to school students, and I have seen the vital role it can play. Yet another crucial domain where we all pay the price for the concerted rightwing move to suffocate all government funding.
0 # Rain17 2012-12-15 21:06
I used to support gun control until I realized that people have a fundamental right to protect themselves. The second point is that, in many areas, especially in high-crime neighborhoods, the police are unable and/or unwilling to do their job and protect law-abiding citizens from criminals and gangs. In some areas the police are corrupt and even in on it. Fundamentally gun rights are civil rights. People, especially those in high-crime areas, have the fundamental right to protect themselves and their property and belongings, no matter how meager. Gun rights are civil rights.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 08:01
The police are unwilling to do their job. My home has been repeatedly under attack and they police come to my house and intimidate ME; it's the easy way out; no complaint, no crime. They have the whole state trained to NOT call the police. The police in Floriduh are not tasked to protect the people or fight/solve crime. They have been conscripted for population containment as we slip into ever greater political control and removing guns is just one more step in that process. Don't forget, the Demorats are the Left wing of the Corporate Party and have corporate domination as their New World Order/PNAC plan. You don't hear the Green Party screaming for the removal of guns, do you?
-2 # DaveM 2012-12-15 21:27
If we really want to do something about violent crime, the first thing we need to do is make it illegal.

Seriously, I have no objection to some sort of paperwork being required if one wants to buy some enormous amount of ammunition. A skeet club or the like would have no trouble demonstrating its bona fides. I presume the same would be true of a military collector who purchased a sealed tin of vintage ammunication (yes, there are people who collect vintage ammo). A lifetime of hunting and target practice for the average hunter probably would not require 600 rounds of ammunition.

Of course, if we register ammunition, what next? Any number of household cleaners/chemic als can be used to produce deadly poisons--should one have to "sign the book" when buying toilet bowl cleaner and allow the police to look under your kitchen sink as a condition of owning same? A car can be driven into a crowd or an aircraft flown into a building. What are we to do about that?

Unfortunately, the world is a dangerous place and we cannot make it safer by implementing the roots of dictatorship. Or at least, the only people who could be made to feel safe by such measures are those they would supposedly prevent from existing. After all....they would never have to fear encountering an armed law-abiding victim.
-1 # Lee 2012-12-15 21:29
Sad that ecery time some maladjusted moron commits an antisocial act the well meaning liberals will use that as an excuse to restrict the freedoms of everyone else. Put the blame where it belongs. Restricting help for the mentally unbalanced is the cause of such acts. The firearms did not choose to act alone.

It's the lunitic neocon fringe that would deny mentl health care to the mentally ill thaqt cause these disasters,
+2 # goodsensecynic 2012-12-15 22:27
Gun control legislation is an issue, but the American culture of violence is a larger one.

Its past? A history of domestic slavery and genocide, of imperialism soaked in hypocrisy.

Its present? The highest murder rate among "advanced" countries, the highest rate of incarceration among "advanced" countries, the only Western nation with the death penalty, and armed forces deployed in well over 100 countries.

Its consequences? The first person I heard speak the Friday's slaughter said: "If only the principal [who I understand was the first victim inside the school] had a gun, this would never have happened." She spoke the words calmly and thoughtfully, without a hint of dripping sarcasm. There is the problem in a literal nutshell.

Strict gun control laws - like in every other liberal democracy wouldn't hurt - but the USA must also undergo an almost metaphysical shake-up before it can aspire to moral stability, never mind "leadership."

The USA is a violent country at home and abroad. It relies on perpetual war and the mythology that it is "the greatest country in the history of the world." It needs to shut up, stand down and look critically in a mirror for about a decade, then think how it can redeem itself for its own sake and the sake of other inhabitants on the planet.
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:41
People in countries with stricter gun control are every bit as violent. Sorry, but it's true. Ask any skinhead.
+2 # smile90803 2012-12-15 22:33
i don't think ANYBODY is talking about disarming the population. CONTROL is what's needed. if you are a law abiding citizen why would you have a problem with regulation, registration etc? why would you be concerned if a flag went up if you bought 600 rounds? if it's all good then it shouldn't worry you..right? wrong? i have certainly heard enough about freedom when it comes to gun ownership. anybody can cross from mexico and buy ak-47's --does that hinder your freedoms gun owners? i would think not. look around the world. we have 20,000 gun deaths a year in this country..englan d? what 30? canada the same japan? australia? germany? insanely low. mexico has only something like 1300 private gun licenses in the whole country. they buy their guns here! we got problems and we gotta start somewhere.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:55
I am a gun owner. I have had to go through several gun classes, register, have my finger prints taken and pay all sorts of fees. And yet, they are calling for even MORE gun control. This IS about disarming a population because if it wasn't, they would be furiously also looking for the reason(s) for these spree shootings, but they aren't are they? We have had gun ownership for generations, but now, when the country is most vulnerable with a crooked political system we suddenly need more "gun control"?
0 # redjelly39 2012-12-15 22:39
I am not a gun advocate but I think a bigger problem looms and has ties to all these shootings. Pharmaceutical drugs. The pill pushers made billions after diagnosing millions of kids with ADD/ADHD and drugging them all. I think we need to make more people aware that the guns may play a part but we n
eed to reevaluate how we are medicating our kids as a society. If we dont get this fixed, they will just use knives or homemade bombs to carry out their insane behavior. I feel like many of these kids that are doing these shootings are victims too and their behavior is a cry for help or at least it should send us a warning that something has broken down in their lives and patching it with medication only throws gas on the fire. Lets fix the problem - not take away even more of our rights.
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:40
Those same drugs are available in Europe and are prescribed just as much.
+2 # Sully747 2012-12-15 22:46
Let’s get the military guns and the drone guns under control… They are killing innocent humans by the thousands…
+4 # hoodwinkednomore 2012-12-15 22:47
Mental illness or not guns are made to kill. What does any one expect? President Obama needs to take charge of this AND, in addition, stop the continued invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, elsewhere b/c innocent children are being blown to bits in those countries every single day!!
+4 # Rick Levy 2012-12-15 22:51
The NRA is a terrorist organization that physically intimidates its opponents an critics. Where are the Patriot Act and Homeland Security when you need them?
+2 # fdawei 2012-12-16 00:07
President Obama, the Nobel PEACE Prize winner and consitutional lawyer, shed a tear for those lovely children who were massacred.
We should all shed tears if the president doesn't do the right thing and take decisive action to end gun violence by confronting the NRA, its millionaire and billionaire supporters, the armament and ammunition manufacturers immediately and forcefully.
He should muster enough support among his elected cohorts and convince those across the aisle to come to the aid of all good people in his country !!!!
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:49
Oh, correct, let's make ourselves even MORE vulnerable to the Conservative crazies and have a totalitarian dictatorship while we are at it. Wake up and stop being such a dupe!
+2 # lamancha 2012-12-16 00:20
To attempt to fix a problem- any problem - you try and get to the core. And just where is this core? None other than the NRA. They are the ones who have escalated the unfettered sale of guns throughout this nation. Believe it or not, they still advocate "cop-killer bullets" as being necessary to prevent any limitation to the bearing of arms. This is sick and depraved logic. They cite the 2nd Amendment as a basis for unlimited use of guns in our society, an amendment that clearly states at its very core, "a well regulated militia." How can ordinary citizens comprise a militia that is the domain of our vast armed forces? The whole thing is preposterous-I blame the NRA for the carnage that envelops this country.
-1 # James Marcus 2012-12-16 00:56
I don't have mixed feelings. The Guns Obama must control, ...are his own. The Right to Bear Arms, provided for in the Second Amendment, remains all the more necessary and reasonable.
Bring the guns home. Stop the Drones, raids, and assassinations everywhere
0 # Virginia 2012-12-16 01:22
Is this just about guns or are there other factors like video games and violence on TV? You can limit the guns and there is a necessity but that does not control the mindset learned and programmed by technology.

And don't you find it odd that 22 children were just knifed in China? Is there some kind of subliminal programming or is the world just getting all the more violent?
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:38
The 22 who were knifed were only injured. Not killed.

They have video games all over the world - the same ones we have. They're even more popular in Japan than they are here.
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:45
it's about all of the above. OBVIOUSLY. but let's not obscure the fact that we need to start somewhere. does regulating law abiding citizens a bit more not sound like a good start? what is the problem if it can prevent some crazies from acquiring guns and ammo without any paperwork. or very little paperwork.
-2 # davideovinchi 2012-12-16 02:31
It has nothing to do with guns. If it wasn't guns it would be something else. Who can argue that?
What do you expect would be the case?
Our potential mass murderering manchurian candidate moping at home because "I can't get a gun to annihilate a bunch of people?
0 # kyzipster 2012-12-16 06:32
Short of a bomb, what sort of 'something else' could equal the murdering capacity of the weapon used in the Colorado theater shooting? 50 to 60 rounds per minute with a 100 round magazine.

Gun control is not about banning guns, our Constitution wouldn't even allow it, it's about common sense regulations that could make a difference.
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:37
The mass murderer in China with a knife injured 22 people. He didn't kill them. He INJURED them. How difficult would it be to even do that? I could stop a knife-wielder with my bare hands. A crowd certainly could.
+1 # joedeane 2012-12-16 04:43
Obama is a cororate creature. Appealing to him for gun control is laughable nonsense. Might as well look to Wayne Lapierre. The corporate state has to go.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:46
You are wrong, Obama wants the gun control; easier to create a totalitarian dictatorship. Read history; Russia, France, China...
0 # RLF 2012-12-16 05:36
How bout health care that covers mental illness for everyone in the country. This would probably have a grater effect on these shootings than gun control.
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:35
Yet every country has mental illness and only a few European countries do more about it than we do. Our murder rate is higher than most of the 3rd world.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:44
+4 # kyzipster 2012-12-16 05:38
This issue only matters to a few thousand? What planet are you on? Millions of voters have bought into the myth that any mention of gun control is a direct threat to their right to own a gun.

I don't believe this should be used as an excuse for Democrats to continue to act spineless as they do on so many issues but it's a fact. In most districts, a Democrat cannot win an election unless they ignore the gun control debate, some even side with the NRA to stay in office.

Some of the most reasonable conservatives I've talked to believe that liberals would ban all weapons if given the chance so they refuse to support the most basic gun control laws that have been proposed. Closing the gun show loophole. Allowing federal investigators to actually use a computer to track gun sales. As it is, they have to sort through the paper records of licensed gun dealers. Two out of five guns change owners with no background check and not even a paper record. Most gun owners aren't even aware of how the NRA has forced so many limits on law enforcement to help keep us safe.

If we push for too much without first countering the massive propaganda that uninformed voters have bought into, gun control will continue to be used successfully by the GOP to gain votes. They're a mess right now but after 8 years with Obama in the White House, they will be back in full force in 2016.
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:12
conjecture at it's highest degree. the ONLY thing that will allow the republicans to gain any kind of control anywhere is gerrymandering and voter obstruction. the country is NOT center right. it's progressive.
0 # joedeane 2012-12-16 05:43
Appealing to Obama is futile, ridiculous and laughable.The man has a spine only where corporations brace him to keep erect. The gun lobby is part of corporate USA. Obama is their well paid servant. You would have better luck asking him to legalize machine guns without a permit. Wake up people, Obama is not on our side.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:43
Neither is "gun control". People have owned guns for generations but just now we suddenly have a gun problem?? WHO OWNS THE MEDIA, PEOPLE???? WAKE UP!!!!
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:05
So, I'll be the first to go against the grain on this thread. Let's perform a thought experiment. It's just a thought experiment, nothing else.


Would the views of anti-gun control people change?

If not, I'd ask what would you do about it. I'd also ask what it would take for you to take gun control seriously.

If it would change your views, I'd ask how we suddenly passed a threshold at that point. Isn't it enough that some sort of mass murder is already happening every few weeks in this country?

I find it kind of remarkable that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor stricter gun control, yet on this supposedly "liberal/progre ssive" site (gun control is a liberal/progres sive issue) the threads are dominated by "liberal/progres sives" who hate the idea.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:41
You don't know your history. This isn't "gun control" it's a political take over. You are ignoring what is going on here, politically.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:39
I don't agree with this push to remove all guns. This is what they do to countries just before a totalitarian dictatorship emerges. Why all of a sudden, when this country is at its most vulnerable politically, does the media suddenly start pumping these kinds of stories? We have had gun ownership for generations but NOW all of a sudden we have a gun plague??? We are being played and people are walking right into it. I think this country is looking for a magic fix that doesn't exist; better to be looking for the reason(s) for these sporadic attacks; but that would take work, money and brains; people are just too lazy to make that effort. This country is being abundantly stupid, once again, and will live to regret this decision any many more will die trying to undo it.
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:23
how do you come up with the assesment you do? suddenly a gun plague? who is making this claim? people understand that we have way to many guns out there already. they aren't going away immediately. but why continue the sale of assault rifles? why not regulate purchases of mass ammunition? as ii stated before: if you are a law abiding person why would you a: need that much ammo? b: if you did why would you mind the flag going up and you qualifying your purchase? nobody want's uncle ernie's old target rifle. nobody's after your gene autry american cowboy pistol. wwe understand there is no "magic fix" you seem to be parroting some lame talking points from fox news or something. most people favor sensible regulation. the nra is making it sound like we want magic fix's. not the people. and your statement that it would work money and brains to do this is just a form of intended apathy. not good.
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:38
people we are talking about the fact that a bunch of innocent kids were shot. is it not a reasonable assesment that the ease of availability of ammunition and guns could be a contributing factor to this? save your rhetorical bs for another time.the rest of the civilized world has much stricter control of guns and much less gun violence. that is a fact. like healthcare the lobbies have distorted the conversation to the point of absurdity.
0 # 2012-12-16 08:01



Where are all the millions of people who cheered for Pres. O. after the election, and why are they not demanding action from the chief?
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:41
we ARE demanding action from the president! of course we are. start with firing holder? c'mon! think! is that REALLY where we should start on this issue? it seems your agenda might be a little different from the topic.
0 # tmagstadt 2012-12-16 08:44
A national referendum is one way to circumvent a dysfunctional government with a popular vote. One problem is that it would take a constitutional amendment to do it. Many other countries have tried it, including the UK where the decision to join the EU was put to a popular vote in the mid-1970s. The other problem is that you never know what mischief some rich nutcase with an axe to grind will get up to. Look at Coalition for National Referendum website, for example, and I think you'll see what I mean. Still, a referendum is less disruptive and likely to produce less collateral damage for a society than a revolution. The way things are going it'll take one or the other to fix anything, even something as obviously in need of fixing as our murderously stupid gun laws in this country.
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