Saturday, January 05, 2013

Blockage At The Top

Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress on January 4 briefly described the ten gun bills which were to be introduced on that first day of the 113th Congess.   You will be shocked! shocked! to learn that the two which would eliminate gun-free zones in schools were introduced by Republicans while all eight which would enhance firearm security were proposed by Democrats. The latter, Strasser indicates, include

-banning high-capacity ammunition
-closing the 'gun show loophole'
-making the database of who cannot buy guns effective
-regulating where and how ammunition is purchased
-requiring handguns to be registered
-regulating how gun licenses are issued
-raising the age of legal handgun ownership to 21
-requiring the reporting of stolen guns

There are, however, at least three impediments to enactment of gun safety legislation.   One, obviously, is the influence of the National Rifle Association which, according to a USA Today-Gallup poll, still ranks favorably with 54% of the public.

Another is the continuing resistance of that public to new legislation.  The same survey asked "Which would you prefer: enforce the current: enforce the current gun laws more strictly and not pass new gun laws or pass new gun laws in addition to enforcing the current ones more strictly?"Incredibly, (no, not incredibly:  see impediment #1), there was less support for new legislation in polling conducted 12/19 (five days after the Sandy Hook disaster) through 12/22 than in polling conducted in October, 2011.   Then, 60% favored new legislation while 35% were opposed; now only 46% support new laws with 47% opposed.

Ambivalence about gun legislation and the power of America's pre-eminent pro-crime lobby shouldn't faze a President who eloquently told the Meet The Press audience

That was the worst day of my presidency and it’s not something that I want to see repeated... All of us have to do some soul-searching, including me as president, that we allow a situation in which 20 precious small children are getting gunned down in their classroom.This is not something that I will be putting off.

Soul-searching accomplished, President Obama now says

We’re not going to get this done unless the American people decide it’s important and so this is not going to be a matter of me spending political capital. One of the things that you learn having now been in this office for four years. The old adage of Abraham Lincoln’s, ‘with public opinion there is nothing you can’t do and without public opinion there is very little you can get done in this town.’

Admittedly, Barack Obama has not "put off" the situation, inasmuch as he has put Vice-President Biden in charge of a committee to consider gun violence.  And after Biden's group recommends action on firearms, perhaps the issue of gun safety will prove analogous to that of same-sex marriage, opposed by an "evolving" Obama until his V.P. forced his hand during the campaign by coming out in support of the cause (pun intended).   Unfortunately, it is isn't a parallel situation because failing to advocate same-sex marriage after his subordinate and running mate had done so would have exposed the President of the United States to questioning and even ridicule.  It's never good to be out-evolved by your No. 2.

Nevertheless, the President's comments the past three weeks serve a valuable purpose.They demonstrated that he feels your pain, always wise strategy in an age in which Bill Clinton's popularity has approached stratospheric heights.    He also managed to pass off responsibility, however subtly, from himself to the American public.  It's not Barack Obama's reliable avoidance of challenging moneyed interest groups on the right.  Rather, it's everyone's responsibility because "all of us" may fail "to do some soul-searching" and thereby give him the political cover that fellow on Mount Rushmore valued.

For over 54 years, viewers on CBS tuned in to the soap opera As the World Turns.  And as the killing fields persist throughout the nation, Barack Obama's famous backbone and commitment to principle threaten to derail efforts toward a sensible national firearms policy.

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