As one would expect, Mayor Michael Bloomberg summarily dismissed a proposal reportedly being advanced by some Staten Island folk who apparently identify with the NRA’s approach for combating deadly gun violence in schools, to wit, putting armed “good guys” in the schools. After maintaining silence for a while following the horrific business that unfolded in Newtown, Conn., the NRA, when they surfaced, stuck to a script that did their brand proud. It’s fair to assume that not a whole lot of us on the common sense side of the gun divide would have been surprised.
When, in the wake of a gun violence outbreak, there’s the ineluctable wild west, shoot-‘em-up solution offered as the ultimate panacea, it’s tough to determine sometimes whether it’s more incredulous than sickening or vice versa. It’s just mind-boggling that irrespective of the scale of carnage resulting from guns that wind up in the wrong hands, the chorus from gun worshippers is unchanging. There is nothing the matter, they insist, with the widespread accessibility of guns. The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees it.
Gun advocates’ reliance on the Second Amendment for cover on the matter of gun ownership tends to represent the Amendment as cut and dried, ignoring the “militia” reference in its premise. Even if the Supreme Court of today interprets the right to bear arms as pertaining to individuals, absent any “well armed militia” considerations, who is to say that down the road the Court, differently constituted, won’t come up with another interpretation of the Amendment’s language, written more than 200 years ago? Absolutists on the pro-gun side even refuse to consider that the right to bear arms today should factor in the vast difference between weaponry today and as it existed in the late eighteenth century – the fact that firearms have the capacity today to be so much more destructive so rapidly, for instance. For the crowd that’s gung-ho on guns, the common-sense consideration occupies a place in this discussion that’s well beyond the sidelines.
The shame of people prominently positioned, whether at federal or state level, coming off as wimps in the face of the NRA’s threats of political backlash, is one the country will not soon live down. The society standing pat upon witnessing Columbine, Virginia Tech., Tucson and other acts of mayhem in recent years is the kind of national blemish many find too dumbfounding to comprehend. As we noted here previously, there’s reason to hope the Newtown tragedy was the lightning rod for change.
The NRA’s response to Newtown, if anything, lent credence to expectations of a substantive shift in the gun violence narrative. Whatever else it may have been, the NRA’s coming on with that razzmatazz about armed cops being placed in all of the nation’s schools was for the most part diversionary – intended to shore up their own ranks by not seeming, among hardliners, to cave amidst the unprecedented outrage that Newtown invoked, while appearing concerned enough to those a bit less tunnel-visioned, with the utterly impractical suggestion of deploying armed cops in all schools. This coming after giving a heads-up about an intention to contribute to the national discussion on gun violence. The reaction of Mayor Bloomberg to the NRA’s grand unveiling of its contribution just about nailed it: “Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe.”
President Obama, for his part, seems resolved to expeditiously move on this issue, naming Joe Biden as head of a task force to come up with recommendations. This is expected to be a comprehensive review of what the problems are and what actions are required to best address them, encompassing both the core issue of tightening gun ownership regulations and related contributing factors including what about the country’s present delivery of mental health services needs an immediate fix. It will no doubt create another opportunity for hard-right conservatives and Tea Party types among Congressional Republicans to engage in the usual hollering over social program spending. We know from lots of experience that there is a disgusting GOP element, notably in the House, who have zero enthusiasm for voting funds for matters like Hurricane Sandy relief or what will result from that mental health review. If House Speaker John Boehner didn’t have the guts to schedule a vote in the House for the fiscal cliff legislation passed by the Senate, Republican renegades were obviously quite prepared to take the country into a dark place…yet again.
Let’s be honest, though. Absent Newtown, the gun control issue hardly would be figuring in the second-term priorities Obama now outlines. No, he was not exempt from the list of players in Washington who, even if not walking in lock step with the NRA, chose to be indifferent to the menace this outfit and its fellows posed. Newtown gave us glimpses of some of the major domo characters of the gun culture and the sort of “rap” that has brought them prominence. It only heightened consternation that to these screwballs has a large chunk of Washington been long beholden for political survival.
The president’s comment that Newtown was the toughest day of his presidency so far will hopefully have repercussions capable of erasing those up-close glances of a very disturbing “other world.