This time it was in a Connecticut elementary school, not very far from my home. The local and national news together are overwhelmingly depressing. I feel despair and powerless: such brutality, and Americans have kept on arming themselves, with support for gun control diminishing.
Why? Perhaps it is because too many of us confuse fictions with facts? On this issue the NRA view of the world seems to dominate. Consider this blast from Deliberately Considered’s past, the story of a preteen sharpshooter defending her home in Butte Montana. Gun advocates make up there own facts to justify their position that guns yield personal and public safety.
A fact free world provides the grounds upon which outrageous judgments are made. Charles Blow cited one today:
“Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, wasted no time trying to pin Friday’s shooting on gun control advocates. ThinkProgress quoted a statement of his that read, in part: ‘Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.’ ”
How is it possible for someone to imagine let alone utter such words? Following their logic, and the sort of pseudo-evidence it is based on, “the fictoid from out west,” perhaps the answer to school violence is arming kindergarten kids. David Frum, indeed, in a tweet sarcastically declared: “Shooting at CT elementary school. Obviously, we need to lower the age limit for concealed carry so toddlers can defend themselves.”
And then there is the magical power of prayer. Mike Huckabee: “We ask why there’s violence in our schools but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”
Gail Collins, my favorite columnist, turned off her sharp wit today to express bitter outrage, reflecting on this and other statements, “looking for America.” She didn’t like what she was seeing.
I want to believe that change is coming. I think there is an opportunity. I am convinced that the election results represented a change in American public opinion and commonsense. Yet, I know that the changing opinion has not included guns and a serious critical response to the violence in American life up to this point. Public discussion has shifted in the past twenty years from gun violence and control to the second amendment and gun rights.
I think that it is in this context that President Obama’s moving response yesterday should be judged. Heartfelt and sincere, he expressed the nation’s grief, but he also promised a change. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” I wonder whether this is a real opening to a renewed public debate.
There are good reasons to be skeptical. Since Gore v. Bush in 2000, Democrats, including Obama, have been increasingly reluctant to take up gun control. But Obama suggested that he may move against this reluctance, pointing to the hard facts of atrocity.
Now is an opportunity for leadership. If Obama in fact does address the issue of gun violence and control in the coming days, it will matter. It will start a serious accounting, providing the opportunity for citizens and their leadership to think beyond fictoids and nutty opinion. I hope this will include both Republicans and Democrats. News flash – Rupert Murdoch just tweeted for gun controls. People are pushing as I write this post. (See this and this, I am sure there are other important efforts.) Obama has had good political reasons to be cautious in the recent past, but elections matter only if and when they are acted upon.