Friday, December 21, 2012

How Obama and Democrats Can Win Passage of An Assault Weapons Ban

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Back in 2001 following the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush, in greasing up his and Dick Cheney's war machine, declared to other nations that "You're either with us or against us." In the wake of another historic murderous rampage, the Newtown, CT school massacre, President Obama and Democrats would be wise to frame the gun control debate in a similar fashion: "You're either protecting children or you're not."

Newtown, the sleepy little burg an hour north of Manhattan that will never be the same, has been burying dead children and adults all week. Twenty-six victims in total who died a horribly brutal death at the hands of a demonic monster with a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle. And following the bloodshed Republicans have been throwing up all sorts of diversions and excuses in the hope that they, fearing the NRA and it's 4-million weapons-obsessed members, can once again duck and hide from the subject of an assault weapons ban and stricter overall gun regulations. "Now is not the time," they say, to discuss such legislation. Stricter gun laws "won't stop crime" they claim. "It's time to mourn, not argue," they disingenuously suggest.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday the convoluted rhetoric soared to new heights as Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) accused those seeking stricter gun laws as politicizing the shootings. Like most in his caucus who refuse to budge on the issue of assault weapons, Huelskamp then pointed instead to violent video games and the need for more "parental control" despite the fact that statistics disprove any direct correlation between gun violence and computer gaming.  

An incensed Joe Scarborough, the show's conservative co-host who's lately been an outspoken proponent of gun control measures, snapped back: "Do you dare come on my show and say I am using the slaughter of twenty little 6 and 7-year-old children...for political purposes?" Scarborough also accused Huelskamp of political double-talk by saying discussion of gun control is politicizing the tragedy while talking about video games is not.

Even after last week's unfathomable violence, Huelskamp had the audacity and temerity to declare "It's not a gun problem, it's a people problem."  But guess what? Take away the shooter's Bushmaster and give him a knife instead and we'd likely have one or two funerals at most, not twenty-six. That's not a gun problem?

It's time for Obama and Democrats to get smart and crafty, pinning against the wall the backs of Huelskamp and those ignorant, intransigent buffoons like him. In galvanizing support for an assault weapons ban and tighter gun laws they must make this debate all about the children. "A vote against a ban is a vote against children," is what the main talking point should be. And it should be repeated ad nauseam. It should be what "death panels" was to Republicans.

I believe we're at a critical tipping point. The sickening horror of the Newtown massacre has touched an empathetic nerve in all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation. Most of us are parents and grandparents, and the thought of sending our children off to kindergarten only to be slaughtered like animals by a ravenous diabolical maniac is beyond comprehension.

Conservative politicians don't want to think of little children's bullet-riddled bodies lying dead in blood-soaked classrooms. And at the end of the day I suspect few of them will want to be linked to this sort of carnage by their own unyielding inaction. That's why Obama and Democrats must inextricably connect the two at every turn. They have to guilt and shame Republicans into finally challenging them to cut ties with the NRA which, as its leadership continues to demonstrate, is woefully out of touch with the realities of modern days violence. This must be done all in the name of protecting children and working to save their lives. "You're either with the kids or you're against them..."    n

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Newtown Massacre: Time For Legislation Not Conversation

After a horrific bloody week of multiple massacres, the latest at an elementary school in Newton, CT where twenty 6-10-year-olds and six adults were killed, the tipping point has arrived. We need action. What we don't have the time, patience or stomach for is more stonewalling and can-kicking in the form of meaningless "conversation."

There's no rational or Constitutional basis for Americans to own military-grade weapons. Period. The Founding Fathers had Flintlocks, Muskets and single-fire rifles in mind when they drafted the Bill of Rights not 100-round Bushmaster AR-15's, Kalashnikovs or AK-47's. There's plenty of room in a civilized society for people to protect themselves, their homes and still shoot helpless deer if they so choose without allowing deadly combat-style assault weapons to end up in the hands of demonic, psychotic monsters.

There's no merit to any of the standard arguments made by gun enthusiasts to maintain the status quo. We are the most civilian-armed nation in the world, and not surprisingly the country with the most gun-related deaths as a result. We don't need more guns.  And if the shooter had a knife instead of a Bushmaster--as gun enthusiasts argue would happen if there were no guns--most of the twenty-seven Newtown victims would still be alive. What's more, increasing background checks won't really make a dent either considering that 75% of mass-murders in the United States obtained their weapons legally. What we need is legislation. And now.

As expected, we're once again hearing calls for improved mental health care--which could identify and treat these unhinged individuals before they kill--yet the Republican Party, which uses this topic as a convenient diversion from the issue of gun control, has vehemently fought against ObamaCare and any efforts to increase funding for health care. It's a convoluted philosophy akin to how they staunchly oppose abortion yet cut funding for sex education and contraception.

The solution to gun violence in America can be simple and quick, but it's made very complicated by a disproportionately powerful gun lobby that spends millions of dollars annually to hold lawmakers hostage while riling up their constituents with deceptive, purist propaganda.

After Friday's massacre, an extremely emotional and visibly shaken President Obama addressed the nation and called for Americans to "come together and take meaningful action." White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters after the shooting that there'd be time to discuss gun control but that he didn't believe that "today is that day." Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said on Fox News Sunday that we need "thoughtful, calm reflection" on gun control and the Second Amendment.

This is weak and ineffectual leadership in a time of national crisis. I'm sorry, but now is precisely the time to call for gun legislation. I'm sick and tired of hearing politicians talk about how "now is not the time" or that we need to have "meaningful conversations" or "thoughtful, calm reflection." Enough. We don't need anymore damn conversation. That's all we ever have is conversation. Every time some psycho sprays a mall, business, movie theater or a school with bullets we spend days and weeks talking about it and then it quickly becomes a forgotten subject until the next massacre. Then the go-nowhere conversations begin all over again.

And just what exactly do these "conversations" look like? Do they have a timeline? A clear objective? Or are they merely more of the same empty chatter designed to make politicians feel good about if they're actually doing something to stop the barbarism? It's time to stop talking. No more conversations.

Consider what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said following the massacre:  "With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen..We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns...President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response."

And now we have twenty dead children. Twenty families that have to face each morning with the unimaginable sight of an empty bed where a sweet child once slept. Twenty-seven families who'll be putting their loved ones in caskets as they attend the saddest funerals imaginable. The Newtown families have lost wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. As one who's wife was brutally murdered, I have a sense of the horror they're all going through. When will this unnecessary carnage end? That we can't pass laws that protect even our children at school is unconscionable.

It's time to bombard politicians with emails, letters and calls demanding they take immediate action in addressing gun violence. It's time to threaten them with the 2014 election if they fail to pass meaningful assault weapons legislation. It's time to stop talking. No more conversations.

And it's time to stop sugar-coating the details of this massacre in an effort to be politically correct. I want the the gun-rights crowd to clearly understand the huge cost of their intransigence. As these Rambo-wannabe's lay their heads down to sleep each night I want them to first hear the chilling screams of those helpless terrified children. I want them to see the images of those precious faces as they cowered at the feet of the devil-incarnate, as their innocent little bodies were riddled with bullets. I want them to see the blood-spilled classrooms. This is the price they must pay for their colossal selfishness.   

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein Sunday on "Meet the Press" announced she will introduce an assault weapons bill in the Senate, with the same bill to be introduced in the House, on the first day Congress returns in January. The odds are it will fail. And until our elected officials grow some balls, and can stand up to the NRA the same way some Republicans are now telling Grover Norquist to take his "no tax pledge" and shove it, the likelihood is that nothing at all will change. Maybe it'll take a deranged, diabolical maniac to shoot up the U.S. Capital, or the offices of the NRA, in order for the conversations to end and the legislation to begin.