Monday, January 28, 2013

Upset with Gun Deaths? Blame the Liberals!

By the time the Assault Weapons Ban reached Bill Clinton’s desk in 1994, the Republicans, led by the NRA, had successfully watered down the provisions to make it mostly cosmetic. The year before, the “Brady Bill” was signed into law with the so-called “gun show loophole” safely in place. In each case, the gun industry and their NRA lobbying arm successfully targeted and shot holes through the legislation. And with the Assault Weapons Ban, they successfully managed to include a 10-year sunset provision.  And the Democrats, eager for a deal, let it happen.

A month and a half has passed since the horror of Newtown, and President Obama has now put forth a sweeping set of proposals to roll back access to guns.  New York rushed legislation through and Maryland is next in line. Democrats and liberals are applauding the prospect of finally reigning in our out of control gun culture. Meanwhile the NRA and the Republicans quietly reload ready to shoot holes through another attempt to better balance the right of gun ownership with the reality of a modern society.

Maybe Newtown was the proverbial tipping point. Perhaps the thought of those young and innocent elementary school kids being gunned down (could have been my kid, or your kid, right?) changed our view of gun ownership in a way that Reagan’s assassination attempt, or Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Congresswoman Gifford’s shooting, or Aurora, (you get my point) didn’t.

Let’s hope so. But I remain concerned that Democrats will do what they tend to do. Play nice and work for bipartisanship. They think they other side might, just maybe, see their point. This time. Unfortunately we have no recent historical evidence to support that. Add to that the power of the NRA and the significant money interests of the gun industry and the battle is joined. But are the Democrats up for the fight? And are they ready to fight the fight that needs to be fought? And the fight I am not talking about is not assault weapons. Of the 32,000 gun deaths last year, almost two-thirds were suicides. Without a doubt mass killings and homicides of any type are horrible crimes that should be prevented. But the real tragedy happens quietly and out of sight each day when about 50 people decide to kill themselves with a gun. And the data is clear: states with more lax gun ownership laws have higher suicide rates. It’s not even close. This is not a 2nd amendment issue. This is not about denying sportsmen access to firearms, or preventing citizens from protecting their lives and property. This is a public health embarrassment and we should be ashamed. We are better than this and we can do better by and for our fellow Americans who suffer from mental illnesses who in a moment of utter despair reach for a nearby handgun.

In so many cases, and not just gun safety, but the environment, health care, national defense, to name a few, the Democrats tend to back down. The fact that Republicans are far more disciplined and rarely negotiate is part of it, but the Democrats tendency to compromise rather than stick to principles leads us to lousy laws, like the bullet riddled Assault Weapons Ban.

Let’s hope this time, the Democrats choose principle over pragmatism and hunker down for a prolonged fight. It will not be easy, but they must keep at it. Otherwise we’ll be back here in 3 months or a year or so rending our garments over another madman with a military rifle and dozens dead. Meanwhile, today, 50 more lonely souls were lost when they put guns to their heads to end their misery and chose death over life.


  1. I agree with your insight that liberals (okay, Democrats) must have the collective determination to see this through. I hope the President is also joined to the fight for the long-haul, not just for the post-Newtown knee-jerk period of public attention. The bottom line is that guns DO kill, very well, and we (the people of this society) must take the various steps toward mitigating this public health menace. The auto industry railed against removing lead from gasoline, yet we (the people) recognized that cleaner, safer air would eventually result from the common sense of unleaded gas. This is a similar argument, I think, to finding sensible ways to manage the carnage of guns.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Iain. Your example of how we took action to remove lead from gasoline is a good one.