Former Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly are kicking off a new campaign today to take on the NRA's influence on the Hill. Their op-ed in USA Today is a must-read and must-share:
We can't be naive about what it will take to achieve the most common-sense solutions. We can't just hope that the last shooting tragedy will prevent the next. Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources.

Americans for Responsible Solutions, which we are launching today, will invite people from around the country to join a national conversation about gun violence prevention, will raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby, and will line up squarely behind leaders who will stand up for what's right.

Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer. With Americans for Responsible Solutions engaging millions of people about ways to reduce gun violence and funding political activity nationwide, legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby. Other efforts such as improving mental health care and opposing illegal guns are essential, but as gun owners and survivors of gun violence, we have a unique message for Americans.

We have experienced too much death and hurt to remain idle.

The New York Times likes the White House's trial ballon on comprehensive gun control but has one more item to add to the list:
The task force’s final recommendations, which are due to be released by the end of the month, should include a measure to stem the illegal gun trade and make it easier for law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute gun traffickers and the straw buyers and rogue dealers who enable them.

A strong starting point is a measure first proposed four years ago by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, which she is about to reintroduce in the new Congress.

The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act would create, for the first time, a separate criminal offense for gun trafficking. It would also toughen penalties at every point in the trafficking chain — from straw buyers who purchase a gun for someone else to evade required record-keeping and background checks, to corrupt gun dealers who supply illegal weapons to the kingpins running the trafficking rings. Study after study has shown that a tiny minority of bad gun dealers are responsible for selling a huge number of the guns traced to crimes.

Dana Milbank at The Washington Post examines how Chuck Hagel's Vietnam service has shaped his view of war:
When he says that war should be the last resort, he speaks with a moral authority that few of those senators who would judge him can match.
On to the trillion dollar mint coin punditry...in case you're new to the concept, user letsgetitdone has been on the beat with a primer and history of the idea.  Paul Krugman looks at the theory:
Should President Obama be willing to print a $1 trillion platinum coin if Republicans try to force America into default? Yes, absolutely. He will, after all, be faced with a choice between two alternatives: one that’s silly but benign, the other that’s equally silly but both vile and disastrous. The decision should be obvious. [...]

Enter the platinum coin. There’s a legal loophole allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination the secretary chooses. Yes, it was intended to allow commemorative collector’s items — but that’s not what the letter of the law says. And by minting a $1 trillion coin, then depositing it at the Fed, the Treasury could acquire enough cash to sidestep the debt ceiling — while doing no economic harm at all.

The Washington Post's Greg Sargeant points out that the idea is no less absurd than the options being floated by the GOP:
I doubt we’ll ever find out whether “mint the coin” will pass muster with the courts, because I don’t believe Obama will avail himself of this option. Putting this aside, though, what’s deeply puzzling is the seemingly ubiquitous argument that the “mint the coin” idea is somehow so absurd and juvenile as to be beneath even thinking about.

Of course “mint the coin” is absurd. It’s a response to a situation which is itself already absurd. Indeed, the GOP’s debt ceiling hostage taking is far more ridiculous — and destructive — than “mint the coin” musings are. By far.

Should more employers embrace more flexible work-from-home options to reach out to folks who have dropped out of the workforce? Laura Vanderkam at USA Today pens a fascinating column on telecommuting and embracing a home workforce:
While most people focus on the unemployment rate — which remained at 7.8% in December — the more interesting trend is in labor force participation. The percentage of people older than 16 working or looking for work has been declining for the past 12 years. Many economists blame demographics. Baby Boomers are retiring. Women's participation has plateaued. There are reasons for both trends, but also implications: When fewer people work, this hurts long-term growth, nudging us closer to 2% annual increases vs. the 3% we've long enjoyed.

A shrinking labor force, though, is less inevitable than it seems. Changes in how people work could slow, or even reverse the shrinking, if we choose to embrace them. [...] People who are not looking for jobs as we normally think of jobs might work under different conditions.

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