As the people of Newtown know — and the people of Aurora, Colo.; Tucson; Blacksburg, Va.; and so many other cities know far too well — this is no game. It’s a matter of life and death.For too many politicians across the country, however, it's all just a political game. The New York Times editorial board pens a blistering piece calling out state legislatures that are already trying to circumvent federal gun control measures:
Roughly 30,000 Americans will die by gunshot this year. About two-thirds will be suicides; almost all the rest will be victims of homicide. It is obvious that if guns could be kept out of the hands of people who are dangerously unstable or inclined to commit crimes, and if the weapons themselves were better suited for sport or self-defense than for killing sprees, lives would be saved. [...]
Don’t listen to those who say that Obama should have begun more modestly, perhaps with the centerpiece being universal background checks for gun purchases. Obama was right to go big. He was right to ask Congress not only for universal background checks but also for a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines — measures that the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) abhors.
There’s no point in telling these fanatics that federal gun restrictions are completely constitutional, even under the Supreme Court’s latest interpretation of the Second Amendment, or that federal law pre-empts state law. They already know these bills will be unenforceable. They are merely legislative fist-shaking, letting pro-gun voters know that lawmakers share their antipathy to the Obama administration, and signaling to the National Rifle Association and other gun-manufacturing lobbies that they are worthy recipients of rich political contributions.More analysis on state-level grandstanding here.
Already, states like these have done enormous damage to public safety by acceding to the N.R.A.’s demands for laws that are anything but symbolic. The gun lobby hasn’t been content with the ability of Americans to lawfully possess hundreds of millions of handguns and assault rifles. It wants gun owners to be able to carry these weapons anywhere they want, even among children, concealed or displayed, and preferably without the annoyance of permits, background checks, or safety precautions.
Former Republican governor of Massachusetts and US ambassador to Canada Argeo Paul Cellucci writes a powerful op-ed at The Boston Globe about "getting it done":
GET IT done. That was our attitude at the Massachusetts State House in the late 1990s.Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker on the President's use of his bully pulpit and the debate on gun control:
I know there is no one easy answer to stopping the mass shootings like those committed by mentally ill young men in Arizona, Colorado, and most recently Connecticut. Certainly expanding mental health services is critical. But there are common-sense gun control policies like those adopted here in Massachusetts nearly 15 years ago which would make a huge difference. What it takes is the political will in Washington to get it done. [...] Gun violence is a uniquely American problem. It will take strong presidential leadership and strong leadership in Congress to end the bloodshed and protect the people of the United States.
Anyone who says that there is anything unsettled or unknown or unclear about the relation between gun control and gun violence is either lying or ignorant, or both. Many things in our social life are complicated and multivalent; this one is not. Guns do not protect people, or families. Any anecdote that can be mined to claim that they do—and many of those stories evaporate on probing—is overwhelmed hundreds of times over by the number of well-documented accidents, suicides, and domestic disputes turned into murderous occasions produced by the presence of a gun at homes. A gun turns a drunken dispute into a bloody death. [...]Longtime gun-owner Kirk R. Wythers comments at The Christian Science Monitor:
In the end, the President didn’t speak from the bully pulpit. He didn’t even speak from an elevated post. He just spoke from the mind, and from the heart, and he raised spirits still haunted by the image of twenty small, terrified children, heaped up in a pile of death, whose last breaths were spent in a state of terror because a madman got his hands on a military weapon that no one in a free country should ever be allowed to hold. Good and great causes don’t advance without resistance. First the thing is impossible, then improbable, then unsatisfactorily achieved, then quietly improved, until one day it is actual and uncontroversial. So it was with putting military weapons into the hands of openly homosexual soldiers, and so it shall be with taking military weapons out of the hands of crazy people. It starts off impossible and it ends up done. The arc of the universe may be long, but the advance of common sense actually can take place very quickly. And if it bends toward justice, or simple sanity, it is because people bend it. What we are seeing may be the first signs of a nation deciding, at last, to bend back.
The first time my grandfather watched me feed five shells into my gun, he looked at me soberly and said, “Nobody needs more than three shells. If you miss with the first two, you’re probably going to miss with the third.” [...] There are those who would take every gun away from every civilian. There are those who believe they should be allowed to own any kind of weapon they want.Anson Kaye at U.S. News & World Report on the situational patriotism of the "need guns to protect ourselves from the government" crowd:
Between these views is a duck blind in the cool quiet gray at dawn. I can hear the whistle of a flight of mallards as they swing past. This is a place where two or three shells in a shotgun are all you need. I know what my grandfather would say about big magazines and guns that use them.
Remember when conservatives used to say, "America, love it or leave it"? When just about any protest coming from somewhere else along the ideological spectrum was cause to question that person's loyalty and love of country? Ah yes. Those were the days.Over at CNN, Paul Waldman deconstructs the NRA's "paranoid fantasy":
But now, after decades of positioning government as the enemy, the more recent rise of Tea Party populism, and the prospects of a two-term Democratic president, some on the right find themselves in rather a different place. Instead of impugning the loyalties of others for their perceived lack of patriotism, they are left to employ a sort of situational patriotism all their own.
If you're a regular listener to conservative talk radio, you've heard Barack Obama compared to Hitler and Stalin innumerable times, over every issue from health care to taxes (after Obama's press conference, one Fox News Radio host tweeted, "Freedom ends. Tyranny begins."). Since his election in 2008, supposedly respectable politicians have talked about simply refusing to obey laws they don't like, and some even proposed seceding from the union. To be clear, most gun owners aren't stockpiling canned goods and assault rifles in preparation for some kind of societal breakdown that will give them permission to act out the violent fantasies they've been nurturing for years. But many would say that their "right" to own any and every kind of firearm they please is the only thing that guarantees that tyranny won't come to the United States.Switching gears to another matter of life or death, Naomi Oreske, professor of history and science studies at the University of California at San Diego, calls for President Obama to order a Manhantann Project to address the climate change crisis:
Well, guess what: They're wrong. In today's world, most tyrants aren't overthrown by an armed populace. Nonviolent revolutions can result in a quick transition to democracy, while violent insurrections often result in long and bloody civil wars.
And here in America, it isn't 1776, and it won't ever be again.
There is a powerful precedent for the president to take this route. The core of the national laboratory system was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the Manhattan Project to address an earlier threat to American safety and security: the possibility that German scientists were going to build an atomic bomb that could have been decisive in World War II. Scientists brought the issue to the president’s attention and then did what he asked: They built a deliverable weapon in time for use in the war.
While historians have long argued about the seriousness of the threat of a Nazi atomic bomb, there is no question that at the time it was viewed as imminent. Today we face a threat that is somewhat less immediate but far less speculative. An obvious response is to engage the national laboratory system to study options to reduce or alleviate climate change, which the president could do by executive order.
Progress in many areas of research and development could greatly reduce the problem in the next few decades. Most are already areas of active research that could easily be ramped up. [...] Curiosity-driven science has not yet provided the solutions to global warming, and universities are not well situated to address a single, overarching problem. Moreover, the president does not have authority over our nation’s universities. But he does have authority over our national laboratory system. The labs have been mobilized before; the time has come to mobilize them again.