Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hitting The Real Target

Since the mass shooting in Connecticut, one of our favorite media colleagues, Greg Sargent, has been targeting a single point about the gun safety laws before Congress, often. Many of our fellow members of the media haven't been getting the point though.

Greg's point has been simple: While Democrats and left-leaning Americans would love to see a new assault weapons ban pass, the real goal has always been to pass universal background checks. As of yesterday, one of Greg's Washington Post co-workers, Chris Cillizza, finally seems to have understood that Greg was right.

Mr. Cilizza's epiphany may have to do with actions by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who on Tuesday removed the previously proposed assault weapons ban from a comprehensive gun violence reduction bill. Frankly, we're not surprised that the assault weapons ban was jettisoned from the comprehensive bill.

As Cilizza himself notes, the politics of reauthorizing an assault weapons ban simply aren't on the pro-safety side in this Congress. When you've got a Congress being held hostage to its minority, forcing virtually every action to pass with no less than 60 votes, everything from confirming appointees to passing sane legislation - or almost any legislation at all - is going to be nearly impossible most of the time. The rediculous - and powerless - hold that the NRA has over politicians at almost every level certainly won't help sane gun safety reforms pass.

That said, no one can say gun safety laws can't pass in this country - even in "gun country."

Today, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper - a Democrat with whom we've had some policy disagreements in the past - is signing three new gun safety measures into law. Hickenlooper will authorize an ammunition magazine limitations bill, a universal background check bill, and a bill that requires gun buyers to pay for those background checks, all efforts that have passed through heavy debate and review under the "Golden Dome" of the Colorado state capitol in Denver.

We understand the gun culture in Colorado well, having had both staff members and their families who've lived in the Mile High State over the last twenty years. We're well aware that just because someone in Colorado owns a gun, likes to shoot, or is an NRA member doesn't mean they're a far right-wing nutjob by any stretch of the imagination.

Of course, there are those kinds of extremist right-wing gun owners in Colorado too, including Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, who insists he won't enforce Colorado's new gun safety laws. We hope that Sheriff Cooke realizes, if he's only going to enforce the laws he agrees with, he likely won't be employed as a law enforcement officer for much longer.

Universal background checks - the key gun safety law both at the state level in Colorado and nationally, in Congress - have always been the real bullseye for pro-safety gun legislators since the massacre in Connecticut. That many of our associates in the greater media industry have continually missed the real target on this issue simply drives home the point made by this year's Pew State Of The Media Survey.

The Pew Survey made it clear: Many media customers today are being driven away from old- fashioned news outlets because a lack of proper high-quality staffing has driven the caliber of the those media outlets' products so sharply downwards.

In other words, many of our colleagues aren't hitting what they're aiming at, in part, because their media organizations have chosen to not properly pay and prepare them.

At least on the issue of gun safety, maybe a few more journalists and pundits should follow Greg Sargent on this issue, since he's been on target all along.