Will We Forget Newtown's Kids?

Fighting Passivity

The gun lobby and the weapons merchants are counting on our notoriously short national attention span.

They are counting on confusion, obfuscation and the quiet mobilization of allies to create one delay after another. Their hope is to keep Congress from acting quickly to protect children and other innocent Americans from gun rampages. The longer we wait, the less likely we are to act. See: short national attention span.

They are counting on President Obama -- despite his forceful promise of action on Wednesday -- to avoid putting the full muscle of his administration behind a broad and bold set of measures to end our culture of violence.

They are counting on progressive interest groups to fight among themselves over whether gun safety is more important than, say, immigration reform and climate change. There is nothing like setting allies against each other to turn their energies away from a central goal.

They are counting on the hardened cynicism of Washington insiders who say it doesn't matter that 20 children are dead. The gun lobby always wins in the end, they'll growl, and it's naive to pretend otherwise. Hope is for chumps.

They are counting on the Democrats' desire to maintain control of the U.S. Senate and the fact that in 2014, Harry Reid's party is defending seats in states that have been bastions of opposition to gun legislation -- Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana and South Dakota, to name a few. Sure, the National Rifle Association is on its heels now, but the political consultants will warn about the millions it will spend the fall after next.

They are counting on the NRA's success in embedding itself into the DNA of the Republican Party and the modern conservative movement. When the NRA talks, conservatives listen -- and do its bidding. Many politicians on the right will make sympathetic public sounds now about the people of Newtown, Conn. But out of public view, they will keep legislation bottled up in congressional committees. They will insist we wait for "careful studies" before doing anything. They will talk a mile a minute about mental health funding -- even if they have voted to cut such funding in the past.

Do you doubt this? The NRA's board is a who's who of conservative leaders, politicians and celebrities. A partial list: Grover Norquist, John Bolton, Ollie North, David Keene, Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent, Larry Craig, Jim Gilmore, Ken Blackwell and Joe Allbaugh. (By the way, some of these folks once talked a lot about "homeland security.") Too many conservatives have been complicit in selling their movement off to gun lobbyists.

Yet seeing the obstacles is a first step toward getting past them. I am hearing hopeful noises from the immigration-reform and climate-change camps that their leaders understand that acting against gun violence must take priority -- and that moving first on guns need not set back their own causes. Such solidarity will be essential.

Genuinely inspiring are the number of traditionally pro-NRA politicians who know that Newtown must end business as usual on guns -- and have said so. The witness of Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who is as pro-gun as they get, is more valuable than a million words from liberal columnists. He spoke three simple sentences on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that swept aside years of disingenuous NRA propaganda that bans on assault weapons and large magazines are threats to law-abiding gun owners.

"I've never had more than three shells in a clip," Manchin said. "Sometimes you don't get more than one shot anyway at a deer. You know, it's common sense." Where American gun policy is concerned, common sense would be nothing short of revolutionary. Here's hoping Manchin stays his course.

As for the president, it's imperative that he continue to set aside the counsel of aides who fear his getting embroiled in a big fight over guns. Instead, he must realize he has a historic opportunity as great as the one he seized in passing health care reform.

In 1996, after a mass killing left 35 dead, Australia's conservative and proudly conventional prime minister, John Howard, presided over a National Firearms Agreement that fundamentally altered his country's relationship to firearms. And it's working.

The lesson of Australia is that Obama will lose only if he fails to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime chance to put a permanent end to our debilitating passivity in the face of gun violence. Neither he nor we can allow our attention to waver until the task is completed.

(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group


About the Author

E. J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury Press).



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Reaping What We Sow

December 19, 2012

by Matt Talbot  (http://vox-nova.com/2012/12/19/reaping-what-we-sow/)


So, in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 children are dead.

20 Children. Most of them six-year-olds. Gunned down by a madman with an assault rifle and two handguns.

I spent most of last Friday feeling like crying.

It is hard to be objective about such a crime, such a violation of the innocence of children.

My first reaction was that moral depravity on this scale is impossible to make sense of, because it is truly senseless.

But, what if it is true that I just don’t want to attempt to make sense of it, because of where such an attempt might lead?

Don’t you and I owe it to those children to at least try?

What do these children’s deaths say to us?

Maybe it is the case that we are immersed in evil, and by failing to speak and act against it, we failed to protect these children. Perhaps we all share in some way in the culpability for this event.

Our civilization is saturated with propaganda blaring that Violence Solves Problems. Movies, television shows, popular novels and video games affirm this principle again and again and again, to the point that this glorification of violence is, in an odd way, invisible. Maybe events like this, and the many other massacres that happen regularly in the United States, are trying to tell us to repent of empire, and the attendant violence by which it and all other empires throughout history have survived.

I believe that a line – a fairly direct one – can be drawn from a civilization that glorifies and affirms the use of violence, and a disturbed individual that makes use of that glorification in a way not affirmed by that civilization.

“But how can you blame me for this horrible crime? I didn’t do anything,” you and I might object.

That is precisely the problem. You and I didn’t do anything.

With rights come duties.  We require people who drive a car to take a test to get a driver’s license.  We then retest them regularly to make sure they are still capable of driving safely.  We require car owners to pay annually for a license for each car they own.  All drivers are required to have auto insurance which covers each car they own. 


My suggestion is that we follow the same protocol for owning guns as we do for owning and driving autos.  Before anyone can buy a gun, they would have to do the following:


1.      Get training in the safe use of guns.

2.      Apply for, take a test, and pay an annual license fee to get a license to own a gun.

3.      Purchase gun ownership insurance to cover liability if the gun is used in the commission of a crime or accidental shooting.

4.      Show their license and proof of gun owner insurance before buying a gun from a gun dealer.


Once people own one or more guns, they would have to pay to renew their license for each gun annually.   They would also be retested every five years in order to get their gun owner’s license renewed.


In terms of gun sellers, if they sell a gun to someone who does not possess a gun owner’s license and does not have proof of gun owner insurance, they will be in violation of the law.  Also, gun sellers will be required to carry liability insurance if one of the guns they sell is to someone who does not have a gun owner’s license and liability insurance.


People can still have as many guns as they like.  They just have to be trained and licensed to own a gun and pay for insurance which covers the losses associated with the use of guns.  This proposal will not stop all of the deaths and serious injuries now inflicted by guns on others.  People will still get guns illegally, but with licensing and insurance requirements, it will reduce the number of guns in circulation in our country.  And those who violate the licensing and insurance requirements would be fined on an escalating basis up to and including incarceration. 

We are outraged at 20 of our little children being killed in a senseless massacre. Are we outraged at thousands of children being killed by wars that were started because we could not get oil contracts? How can we expect sanity from our citizens if we cannot expect sanity from our leaders?


Mr. Beezat,

Guns and cars are already treated quite similarly. 

We do not require a license to drive a car, period. We require a license to drive a car in public. Most states do not require a license to own a gun, but you do have to have one to carry it in public. A fee is paid for this as well. A test also must be taken (both a written test and a range test).


The idea of purchasing gun owners insurance would do nothing to help the problem of gun violence, and would hurt those who need arms to defend themselves the most- the poor. Middle class suburbanites- the Nancy Lanzas of the world- can afford multiple guns and can afford to pay insurance on them as well. And their children (and it usually is their children) will still use these guns to go on rampages. Gun insurance will not solve this problem. But what it will do is make guns unaffordable to those who live in impoverished, crime ridden areas.

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