As a society, our first task must be to care for our children — to shield them from harm and give them the tools they need not only to pursue their dreams, but to help build this country. That is how we will be judged. And in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, it’s clear we have a long way to go.
That’s why, last month, I asked Vice President Biden to lead an effort to come up with concrete steps we can take right now to keep our kids safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country. And on Wednesday, I put forward a specific set of proposals based on Joe’s recommendations. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence — if even one life can be saved — we have an obligation to try.
President Barack Obama set a new standard Wednesday for stupidly exploitative White House events by appearing onstage with children to unveil his gun control proposals.
He quoted from letters that the kids had written him. He invoked their Solomonic authority: “Their voices should compel us to change.” He signed executive orders as they gazed on adoringly. He hugged and high-fived them.
No doubt every parent thinks their little Johnny or Sally is the next James Q. Wilson. That doesn’t make it so. Some of the wisdom that the president shared from his adorable pen pals was, “I love my country and [I] want everybody to be happy and safe,” and “We should learn from what happened at Sandy Hook … I feel really bad.”
News flash: Kids don’t want bad things to happen. This would be a genuinely useful insight … if we could write public policy in crayon. The White House event smacked of the old unilateral disarmament campaigns of the 1980s when we were supposed to get rid of our nuclear weapons because they scared youngsters.
The use of children to front a potentially big overhaul of Americans’ constitutional rights is really about silencing dissent, exploiting the wide-eyed innocence of worried children to try to shame those adults who still dare to say: “But what about my constitutional rights?” Indeed, it is normally only the most censorious, authoritarian regimes or groups that use children to front or follow through political campaigns. Who can forget the Child Spies in George Orwell’s 1984, those “ungovernable little savages” whose simplistic moralism made them the perfect monitors of adult behaviour? Today, all sorts of fundamentally anti-democratic, anti-masses campaigns – from Green efforts to guilt-trip us over our carbon use to Mary Whitehouse-style demands to censor wicked art – exploit or evoke children to get their message across. And that message is: “It doesn’t matter what you adults believe or want or desire – the feelings of children are way more important.”
Children are perfect fodder for moralistic political campaigns because they are naturally and naively moralistic, seeing the world in brutally black-and-white terms. That the current campaign to overhaul the Second Amendment now uses children as some of its chief spokespeople is very revealing – it reveals just how cynical and unthinking this campaign is, and that it is driven more by childish fear and simplistic morality than by that old adult pursuit, politics.
Obama’s implication is clear: disagree with him, and you are fine with what happened in Sandy Hook.
That’s a vile, despicable Maury Povich tactic. It’s daytime talk show material, not honest political discussion about how to solve the problem of murder by guns in the United States. Not one of the solutions Obama proposes would have stopped what happened in Sandy Hook. Adam Lanza would have passed a background check. Lanza was armed with two handguns, not just an AR-15. Limiting the number of rounds per magazine accomplishes nothing, since it takes less than three seconds for a relative amateur to change magazines.
But here’s the dirty little secret: this isn’t about preventing another Sandy Hook for the left. It is about political posturing. If the left really wanted to be true to its own philosophy, it would simply attempt to repeal the Second Amendment and go for a total British-style gun ban. The vast majority of murders committed with guns in the United States are committed with handguns. Yet the left insists that it wants to leave private handgun ownership in place, while targeting so-called “assault rifles.” That’s not an attempt at a solution, even from the left. It’s just preening for the cameras while pointing to the bodies of shooting victims.