Monday, July 23, 2012

Aftermath... Again.

For the last three days, the topic of conversation that dominated the media was not what it should have been.

Yes, the act of terror that killed twelve and wounded seventy last Friday in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, was intensely painful to our country. We are deeply sympathetic to those affected, and overwhelmingly glad that nobody our staff members knew was killed or injured in the attack in Aurora.

Still, the discussion in the media hasn't been what it should be.

There have been stories about the booby traps the shooter left behind, stories of the President's visit with the families, and of the life stories of the victims. There was the seemingly obligatory call to not politicize the horrific event - and the failure by members of both the legitimate and not-so-legitimate media to do so.

What hasn't been seen or heard almost anywhere this weekend was what many in politics on the left - and even Rupert Murdoch on the right - agreed there needs to be: a truly adult conversation about sane gun control in America.

Few Americans want to admit that the lack of conversation in that vein is because lobbying organizations like the National Rifle Association effectively own our elected representatives. As Rep. Carolyn McCarthy - whose husband and son were killed in a senseless 1993 shooting − has noted too many times, due to the power of the NRA's pocketbook, most politicians simply don't have the backbone to do what needs to be done.

What's made it worse is that the NRA has also invested billions of dollars in propaganda to convince Americans that gun control and the violence in our society are unrelated - even though stacks of data higher than you can imagine say otherwise.

That combination of actions by the gun lobby means that even though New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg plans to reintroduce gun control legislation, it's almost certain to die on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The cowardice of our elected officials does not change the facts.

One of those facts is that the Assault Weapons Ban, that the Republican Congress and the Bush Administration let die in 2004, might have saved some of those victims in Colorado. While it's true that the semi-automatic assault rifle of the shooter jammed, if he had not had the rifle, it's likely he would have been able to shoot fewer people.

Another fact is that concealed weapons would not have helped those in the theatre, as yet another shooting in New York over the weekend proved, where a police officer shot and killed his own son in a dark hotel room.

The conversation Americans need to be having - MUST have, if they're going to have any credibility on this issue - is the following.

Why are guns in America - especially assault weapons designed to kill human beings - easier to get access to than mental health care? Restricting the worst weapons - and making it more difficult to acquire all other weapons - won't stop every act of terror. Vastly improving mental health care also won't prevent every outbreak of mass violence.

Both, however, would significantly lessen the body count. So why do we allow a lobbying organization to prevent us from doing either?

That's the discussion we need to have.

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