It looks as if President Obama is going to do something to staunch the flow of blood in America. Obviously moved by the unspeakable horror of the Connecticut school massacre, the president (above) implied at a vigil last night that he was ready to act at last.
“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” he said. “These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals, to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have?”
What choice, indeed.
America cannot continue to pretend the carnage we are experoencing is normal. Other civilized societies record about 50 gun murders a year while America has some 10,000. According to the Brady Campaign, about 100,000 Americans are wounded or killed by guns each year (including suicides and accidents). Campaign spokesmen report that gun deaths in America are almost 20 times more than in 22 other countries they studied.
Of course it’s not just easy access to firearms that’s to blame. The problem is much more complex than that,
Guns don’t kill people, the gun advocates say, people do. And it says a lot about this society when so many people go on murderous rampages. Obviously, we need some kind of commission to investigate the underlying causes of the frustration that drives the shooters.
Mental health treatment in America is clearly awry. I have known people who were supposed to be undergoing “treatment,” and – from what I saw – the treatment seemed quite farcical. If this society took mental health seriously, there would be far fewer tragedies.
The Connecticut school shooter is an all-too-vivid example.
But nobody in their right mind would suggest that Adam Lanza could have wrought the same kind of horror with a knife or a baseball bat. Firearms, especially automatic weapons, make that kind of mass slaughter all too easy.
The craziest response to the Connecticut tragedy came from a gun ownership organization official who argued that the massacre would have been averted if the teachers had guns. He charged that gun control advocates “have the blood of little children on their hands.”
Now, you and I know that’s nonsense – more than that, insanity. But that’s the way a lot of Americans seem to feel. And the National Rifle Association, perhaps the most powerful lobbying group in Washington, has chosen to represent those people.
Most other Americans don’t agree, however.
The gun control movement has gathered momentum with the slaughter of those children in Connecticut. And the movement appears to be growing irresistibly stronger.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is among the many influential people demanding immediate action to check the slaughter. “President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families,” he said. “But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action.”
Democratic congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband died in a mass shooting on a suburban train in 1993, is also among the prominent gun control advocates. “Leaders in Washington from both parties, and groups like the NRA, all say that now is not the time to talk about how gun safety laws can save lives in America,” she said. “I agree, now is not the time to talk about gun laws – the time for that conversation was long before all those kids in Connecticut died.”
The American public seems to share that sentiment. At least 10 gun-control petitions have been logged on the White House website since the Connecticut tragedy. The first already has more than 67,000 signatures. And the White House is obliged to respond officially to petitions with 25,000 signatures or more.
I can’t see how the president can fail to act this time. As he suggested, the problem goes beyong gun control, and all of its implications should be addressed. But without any doubt, easy access to assault weapons is one danger that must be ended – and ended now.