Wednesday, December 19, 2012
We as a nation are unlikely to tune out this time. Even after the likely announcement Friday by the NRA that 1) a loony with a knife could be a mass murderer and 2) violent flicks and games are the real cause, not assault weapons and ammo magazines.
The Newtown murders keep us focused and are likely to continue to do so. It is the number and ages of the 20 first graders and their teachers and principal that strip the shield of lies from gun absolutists.
Despite the hourly gun murders of kids and young (almost entirely) men, Sandy Hook makes PR lies and NRA-bought legislators' justifications moot.
Pic note: This is an image from Boston's Forest Hills Cemetery. It is from the days when many parents buried their infants and small children...but after measles and other untreatable diseases, not military assault weapons. It is Creative Commons. You are welcome to it so long as you credit Mike Ball once.
Yesterday, Ryan and I offered our own take on the short-term partial prevention of assault-rife and mega-magazine bans, shutting off secondary markets, requiring all gun sales even at show to perform background checks, and doing what Australia has with such laws that has literally stopped its mass murders by guns.
Pub note: Both of the Globe and FT likely require subscriptions to view. Boo.
From elsewhere today we can two seminal examples of commentary. At the Boston Globe, its ever illogical and disingenuous token winger columnist Jeff Jacoby laid out nothing but stupid clichés. No one law or even set of them will do away with evil. He lies in claiming "Nightmares like the one in Newtown are rare," when we have we average a mass slaying by gun ever two weeks, including 161 kids since 2006. That of course does not count the shooting deaths of one or two at a time that happen daily.
Jacoby's solution is "cultivation of human goodness." While we agree that we need a cultural change long term, immediately we need gun-law revisions. Then we must examine our systems of mental health evaluation and availability of treatment. We can't click our heels as Jacoby would have the magic occur.
The other set of arguments is in contrast sensible and far more realistic. At the Financial Times, Jacob Weisberg, head of the Slate Group, does not expect huge changes in gun laws from the President and Congress. Instead he points to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's action on smoking.
There, Bloomberg used the city's regulatory and enforcement powers. He led to a ban on smoking and restaurants and bars. That in turn is becoming normal in the nation. In NYC, in a decade the smoking rate has gone from 19% to 7% for teens and overall from 22% to 14%.
Likewise, Weisberg says give Treasury's Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms department the same power to enforce gun laws as the Traffic Safety Administration has over cars. Moreover, he wants tort reform so gun makers and sellers are no longer exempt from murders committed with their weapons.
None of his suggestions address the longer-term need to change our gun-and-violence culture here. Australia, Scotland and Finland among others had similar big issues. They started with gun laws that took military weapons away from all but cops and soldiers. We can do that.
Link update: I see that Slate is running the Weisberg commentary, in a form that won't require registration or subscription.
Yes, we do have several centuries of far too many of us ending conflicts with guns. Yes, far too many of us also hold the fantasy we are powerful and worthy in relationship to our firepower. Changing these attitudes is the long-terms answer. Meanwhile, we have crucial changes short-term.