Opinion: It's Time for the Consoler in Chief to Talk Gun Control

Monday, July 23, 2012 - 11:54 AM

President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the University of Colorado Hospital July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. (Getty)

"No guns, no killing,"  Batman orders Catwoman on a rooftop in The Dark Knight Rises. For what is an indisputably violent movie—featuring scenes of senseless death that now echo horrifically following a real-world rampage—at least the protagonist had it right. And James Holmes, the armed and armored attacker, who seemed consumed by guns and bent on killing, had it very, very wrong when he turned the safe escapism of cinema into a true terror.

It's true that all of us feel heartbreak for those in Aurora. But this act isn't unimaginable. It's been replayed in our imaginations and reality again and again. It's true that some acts cannot be prevented, but it would be foolish to say they can't be reduced. And while it may be politically tone-deaf to demand a stunned and grieving nation immediately turn to policy debates, it's not heartless to ask how we learn from the Colorado tragedy to prevent its endless, utterly imaginable sequels.

There is no one answer to preventing gun violence. There are, however, many answers to reducing it, answers that are backed by studies and experience, not by ideology, lobbying and rhetoric. The fact that Holmes' weapons were all purchased legally shows that this isn't just a problem of illegal guns or improper enforcement—it's a more complicated problem about the types of weapons that are disseminated, the lack of real tracking, and the culture of violence.

Those challenges don't have just one solution, although reinstating the assault weapon ban would have had a direct and life-saving consequence on this massacre. Nor should we judge politicians solely on one remedy or another.

But we can judge them for offering no remedy whatsoever, a critique Mayor Bloomberg, a committed advocate for sensible gun laws and reducing illegal firearms, leveled at the parties' two nominees for President.

Bloomberg wasn't demanding they call for legislation the day after the massacre, when the need for healing actions may justifiably demand the candidates' attention. But he was holding them accountable for the fact that neither of their campaigns has yet spoken about gun laws. If it's inappropriate to talk policy after a tragedy and unnecessary to do so before one, then when exactly do we talk about the danger of guns?

The fact that we don't talk about it is what the NRA is working to ensure. We don't expect Mitt Romney to be the leader in this dialogue, though he does have a more moderate record on gun laws than the NRA may approve, having signed an assault weapons ban while governor of Massachusetts. However, we should expect our President, entrusted with the safety of our nation, to have one hand stretched out to heal and the other reaching out for executive, legislative, regulatory and enforcement solutions.

As Palestinian-American commentator and comedian Dean Obeidallah has pointed out, if James Holmes were Muslim, he'd be widely branded a terrorist. When terrorists used airplanes, we changed the laws governing flight safety. If terrorists use chemicals to make bombs, we track sales of those chemicals and websites that teach bomb-making. Yet, when this terrorist used a series of assault-ready weapons, we not only allow our nation's leaders to say there's nothing we could have done, we applaud their "tact" for avoiding political discussions.

President Obama has repeatedly pointed out his capacity for multi-tasking. Here is one of those times when our Consoler in Chief should also govern; where our time of mourning needs to coexist with a dialogue about prevention. 

I don't know all the solutions that bring gun violence down to levels across other Western and industrialized democracies, nor do I think it's as simple as a masked crusader intoning, "No guns, no killing." But I know that saying there are no solutions is unacceptable, and I'm ready for us to take many steps as a nation—whether they come from our President, less likely from his challenger, or more likely from someone with enough job security to show political courage.


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Comments [8]


Is this the same "Consoler in Chief" who asserted executive privilege in the Fast and Furious scandal in which his Attorney General was held in contempt of Congress? That apparent cover-up doesn't conform to the comfortable progressive narrative, does it?

Dec. 15 2012 08:15 PM
Judith Kurland from Pomona, NY

We need to review the whole issue of gun ownership. 300,000,000 million guns are simply too many. We should make acquiring guns MUCH more expensive and difficult to acquire. And one per customer seems reasonable. Why would someone need so many? A special bond of several thousand dollars should be leveled for those who wish to amass a large collection - limit it to the wealthy like those who collect valuable paintings. Make the cost of licenses difficult and expensive and require extensive checks,longer waits - regularly brought up-to-date, including family members backgrounds. Extensive checks and review might find those families with disturbed siblings or children or spouses would be refused licensing. Insure that those who profess interest in hunting show truth by their joining and participating in true hunt clubs = showing they actually participate. If they no longer show up in limited hunting seasons, guns should be removed until they again show proper membership. The whole point is to keep guns from these strange people who have them, have anger issues, and don't deserve to have them. This is not a nanny state issue, it's the safety or our communities. Oh, and get those illegal laws allowing people to carry wthout showing guns, and those idiotic stand-your-ground laws. If people are feeling need for protection, let them use our police and other legal means. And for those who are truly angry - let them stand man-to-man and fight with their fists. Also beef up with numbers and training and money, police forces and staff to do the really useful and complete background checks, repeated regularly or yearly. We need to feel safe. Arming kindergarten teachers is nuts. I personally have a neighbor who leaves garbage in their hallway. When spoken to, they begin screaming and cursing. Can you imagine if they were allowed to carry guns. I'd probably be dead by now.

Dec. 15 2012 10:09 AM

Justin Krebs writes:
"...reinstating the assault weapon ban would have had a direct and life-saving consequence on this massacre..."

Mr. Krebs later refers to the Aurora shooter's "series of assault-ready weapons..."

I am guessing that Mr. Krebs is not only not a gun expert, but that he isn't even conversant with basic firearms mechanics.

Jim Holmes is alleged to have used three weapons (and may have been in posession of four): a Smith & Wesson MP-15, a Browning 870, and one or two Glock pistols.

The Browning shotgun is probably the most standard-issue duck hunting gun in American history. It is not an automatic weapon; it isn't even a semi-automatic weapon. To ban such weapons would be to ban all guns.

The MPP-15 and the Glock pistols are semi-automatic weapons. One pull of the trigger for each shot. You could ban such weapons if you wished (Barack Obama squeezed the trigger on such a vote as an Illinois state legislator), but doing so would ban many of not most modern firearms in the nation. Including many routine hunting rifles and shotguns. There are semi-auto duck guns, semi-auto deer rifles and most handguns sold today are semi-auto.

Fully automatic weapons are already restricted, and virtually illegal, under established federal law. The so-called "assault weapons ban" would not have affected the Aurora shooter's shotgun, or his Glock handgun(s). Without knowing the exact details, I am quite certain that the "assault weapons ban" would not have outlawed the MP-15, either. Since that gun is mechanically no different from other semi-auto guns. It's only connection to military-issued assault rifles was cosmetic.

Then there is the widely misunderstood issue of the 100-round magazine that attached to the MP-15. And that it was that magazine that ennabled the shooting. Which is a presumption, built upon a falsehood. While the assault weapons ban limited such magazines, the limit on magazines never foiled mass shootings. And a large (100-round) magazine is little different from the danger posed by a criminal with ten 10-round magazines. Large magazines are notoriously prone to jamming, and it is a simple matter to quickly insert several smaller magazines in succession. Soldiers do it all the time.

There is much more to deconstruct in this ill-informed blog post. I'd refer interested readers to look at the online column of a real gun law expert, John Lott, in today's National Review Online:

Perhaps, an opposing gun expert -- a real expert -- might wish to argue against Professor Lott. That's fine. But if such a pair of experts squared off, it would be a much more elevated debate than what we see with all of the mistaken ideas and false presumptions advanced here.

Jul. 27 2012 12:11 PM
Milton from Virginia

I've concluded that the root cause of humanity's downfall will inevitably be Ignorance. After last Friday's Colorado movie theater shooting, applications for gun permits have skyrocketed. Do folks really think they'd be safer? A heavily armed gunman in a black flak vest, kevlar & gas mask enters a movie theater, throws a gas canister and starts shooting. First of all it's dark--survivors initially thought it was a "side-show" to the movie, they didn't know what was going on. Ok, so now add MORE guns to the situation. #1: No one can see the shooter very well because it's dark & there's gas everywhere, #2: He's protected with body armor, so chances are you won't kill him anyway. If everyone draws their own weapon and starts shooting in the dark, EVEN MORE innocent bystanders would get shot by friendly fire by folks who only took Weapons Training 101 (where they don't train you to fire in a darkened movie theater with distractions from the movie and people screaming all around you). But sure, go ahead. Buy yourself a gun--at least you'll FEEL safer... and you'll have exercised your 2nd amendment rights.

Jul. 26 2012 01:13 PM
oathororders from American Battlefield

congress declared america a "battlefield". it is now your duty to arm yourself, to protect our republic, its institutions, the bill of rights, the constitution and our public officials.
for 13 school years since kindergarden they had me pledge allegence to the flag, republic, nation and god. i will honor my pledge, the one they taught me.

Jul. 24 2012 12:06 AM
LCR from Texas

Of course there should be more gun control. When framing the 'Bill of Rights', James Madison et al most certainly did not envision that peaceful Americans would be threatened and killed 200 years into the future by fellow Americans. Surely the 'Framers' are turning over in their graves, when they see how Congress is refusing to address gun control as a means to increase safety for every American.

Jul. 23 2012 07:34 PM
James Boggie

While I agree that our leaders must address the issue of violence in our society, I believe the gun control debate is counterproductive. It fails to recognize that gun violence is only one form of violence. Sane people choose to commit acts of violence in our society every day. The focus on guns obscures that fact.

Jul. 23 2012 06:53 PM

Being "politically tone-deaf" may include pretending the Fast & Furious scandal, the Consoler-in-Chief's Executive Privilege decree and the Attorney General held in contempt of Congress just few weeks ago because of a lack of gun control across the border never happened.

Jul. 23 2012 03:25 PM

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