President Barack Obama said Wednesday the nation needs to start talking about tougher gun laws. That might be the end of the conversation.
The White House offered no specific follow-up. Neither did congressional leaders, who say they have no plans to pursue legislation, which faces broad congressional opposition…
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, was noncommittal when asked if Democrats would get behind legislation to restrict the sale of large magazines or assault rifles. “There are important voices on both sides of this issue,” she said.
The polls still show considerable support for practical measures to curb gun violence. For example: a 2011 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 63 percent of Americans favor a ban on high-capacity magazines; just as many supported an assault-weapons ban. The same year, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 83 percent supported financing a system in which people treated for mental illness would be reported to a federal gun registry database to prevent them from buying guns; 71 percent favored this for those treated for drug abuse.
Such numbers should give heart to those who seek solutions to gun violence. Yet so many progressive donors have given up on financing the cause of gun safety. And although President Obama took an important step forward in a New Orleans speech Wednesday night, so many progressive politicians sit back and assume that the gun lobby will win again.
There is a word for this: surrender.
The suddenness and confusion of that moment points out the folly of the politician’s belief that an armed civilian could have easily taken out James Holmes. Imagine the scene: speakers blasting, larger-than-life heroes and villains on the screen, and suddenly real gunshots, a man in a gas mask firing one of three weapons — a shotgun, handgun and rifle, with extended magazines for extra ammo capacity — into the panicking crowd. Even a highly trained, armed police officer would have been caught off guard. Try adding a bunch of untrained, armed civilians into the mix — this type of intervention could have made things much worse…
The pro- and anti-gun groups need to sit down and let common sense rule. We register automobiles and require proof of driving proficiency before granting driving licenses. Is it so unreasonable to consider a national or state-by-state registry for firearms? While I’m not totally opposed to concealed carry laws, why not require comprehensive background checks, psychological screening and training? And while it might be considered un-American to prevent an ordinary citizen from owning an assault rifle, would it be too much to ask why he needs to have a specially modified 100-round magazine?
As a former policeman, I know that such measures would help law enforcement do its job. As an American, I hope that they could help us head off the next tragedy of this type.
Several months ago our family had an extremely troubling personal encounter with a man obsessed with my (and my wife’s) political writing, an encounter that occurred on the heels of angry blog comments that openly wondered about our address. I understand and sympathize with the infantry officer’s lament that he doesn’t want America to be like Iraq, where you carry a gun everywhere, every day, but his lament is irrelevant to my family’s unique challenges. I also understand — just as the cop argues — that a gunfight can be a terrifying, confusing, dangerous affair, but is it more or less terrifying when the criminal is the only one armed? In reality, while mass shootings are exceedingly rare, law-abiding citizens use guns every day to protect themselves from situations less dramatic but no less consequential to their personal safety.
The self-defense experts on the Times editorial board say that I don’t need anything more than a 10-round “clip” to defend my children, my wife, and myself, but the cop on the same page of the paper talks about how even trained professionals can blow through high-capacity magazines in a true firefight. Why don’t we let the citizen decide what he or she needs? A free society trusts its sane, law-abiding citizens to make the right kinds of judgments regarding their own lives. We can’t delegate those judgments to a government that almost always can’t protect us in our moment of maximum need, nor will I sacrifice my family’s safety to a pie-in-the-sky vision of a liberal, gun-free utopia.
In other words: Dear New York Times, don’t tell me how to defend my family.
The wise men of Washington tell us that candidates are silent on guns because to speak out is to incur the wrath of the National Rifle Association. But polls consistently show that gun owners, including NRA members, overwhelmingly support the common sense measures that mayors across the country have been trying to get Washington to pass for years…
The NRA is a $200 million-plus-a-year lobbying juggernaut, with much of its funding coming from gun manufacturers and merchandising. More than anything, the NRA is a marketing organization, and its flagship product is fear. Gun sales jumped after Obama was elected president, based on the absurd — and now demonstrably false — fear that he would seek to ban guns.
There is one particular fear the NRA manufactures with great success: fear of electoral defeat. Romney has walked away from the assault-weapons ban he once supported, and in nearly four years, Obama has offered no legislation to rein in illegal guns. In Congress, the NRA threatens lawmakers who fail to do its ideological bidding, although its record in defeating candidates is much more myth than reality.
By the standards usually set for our politics, the NRA is a model organization. We say we want people more involved in the process. The NRA’s more than 4 million members are highly engaged. The organization’s recent national conference in St. Louis attracted 73,000 people — one of the largest conventions ever held in the city.
We say there’s too much partisanship. Single-mindedly committed to its cause, the NRA endorsed about 60 House Democrats in 2010.
And we say that we value the Constitution. Gun-control advocates, nonetheless, treat the Second Amendment like an “ink blot” (to borrow Robert Bork’s famous phrase for the Ninth Amendment). They consider it an anachronism, an unfortunate lapse by James Madison, a forlorn leftover from the 18th century. They were all duly shocked when the Supreme Court ruled, in its 2008 decision District of Columbia v. Heller, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms.
No one, during fair political weather or foul, has been as unstinting in its protection of that right as the NRA. For that, we should be grateful.