Why Obama Needs to Be More than a Parent Today

When an event like today's mass shooting in Newtown happens, there are words we hear over and over, like "unbelievable" and "unthinkable," as people struggle to find a way to describe the horror of what has occurred. But the truth is that what happened today isn't unthinkable at all. In fact, no one is surprised when such shootings happen, because something like it—perhaps not with quite as many killed, and perhaps with the victims not children—happens so often in America that we are barely surprised when the news brings another one.

A few relevant facts: Six of the 12 most deadly shootings in our history have occurred within the past five years. The vast majority of the world's worst mass shootings have taken place in the United States. There have been 65 mass shootings since Representative Gabby Giffords was shot in 2009. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that Illinois' ban on concealed handguns is unconstitutional. On Wednesday, a masked man entered a Portland, Oregon shopping mall and turned a semi-automatic against shoppers, killing two. On Thursday, the Michigan House passed a bill expanding the state's concealed-handgun law, including a provision that allows concealed weapons in schools.

And one more fact: There will be another mass shooting soon. Maybe next week, maybe next month. But we won't have to wait long.

It may be some time before we understand what drove this one man to do something so horrifying. But when we ask what we can do to make another mass shooting less likely, we have to look broadly—at our mental health system, and yes, at our gun laws. We'd like to say we have confidence that our elected representatives will have the courage to talk frankly about how to keep this kind of event from happening again and again and again, and actually take some concrete steps to stem this tide, but that wouldn't be true.

The president spoke about the shooting this afternoon from a podium in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, named for Ronald Reagan's press secretary, who was shot in the head when a gunman attempted to assassinate Reagan. "We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years," he said. "And each time I learn the news I react not as a president, but as anybody else would—as a parent. And that was especially true today." Well, that's not good enough. He's not just a parent, nor are the men and women in Congress. They're the ones who have the power to do something about it.

So They Say

"As a country, we have been through this too many times.  Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago—these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.  And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

President Barack Obama

Daily Meme: An Uncomfortably Familiar Tragedy

  • In the back of our minds, while we stew in horror and heartbreak over the shooting at that Connecticut school, it's hard to forget this is far from the first time we've had to deal with a massacre of this magnitude.
  • This year alone, we had to contend with the shooting at the midnight screening often Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, and the Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, among several other mass shootings. 
  • And yet, no forward movement on gun control has been made since the 112th Congress convened, and serious debates about gun policy happen only in the context of tragedy.
  • And, stunting the discussion on guns in America even more, as Adam Gopnik noted in July, is our country's romance with violence. "Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it."
  • And, as Jill Lepore writes in her incredibly thorough history of the Second Amendment, even if gun ownership is falling steadily, the power of the gun lobby is evergreen. 
  • So today, as with all these previous shootings, calls for reviving gun-policy talks are loud. As Paul Waldman pointed out this summer, "the wake of a massacre is exactly the right time."
  • Or, as David Frum wrote today, "every day is the day to talk about gun control." 
  • What about those who say it's uncouth to politicize tragedy? Michael Grunwald has the best response: "The talking heads don’t like it, because they think of politics as a silly game about who sang out of tune and whose words can be used against them and whose surrogate undercut whose message, but politics is about life and death and human suffering. At least that’s what it should be about."
  • And as Gary Younge wrote in a post updated today from July, "to claim that 'this is not the time' ignores the reality that America has found itself incapable of finding any appropriate time to have this urgent conversation."
  • Arguments made by gun advocates urging the opposite will bubble up. too, and if the past is king, will effectively stamp out any definitive legislative leadership on this issue.

What We're Writing

  • Robert Kuttner takes issue with The New York Times' gloss on the Susan Rice withdrawal.
  • Jonathan Bernstein says it's about time we put the idea of term limits to bed. 


What We're Reading

  • ProPublica collected the best reporting on guns, all articles which are well worth your time.
  • Susan Rice explains why she's stepping out of the secretary of State speculation game.
  • Bobby Jindal, trying to show that Republicans are hip with women's rights, wrote an op-ed pushing for over-the-counter birth control.
  • Stephen Colbert is donating his leftover super PAC money to the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive Politics, but there are some strings attached—like naming a conference room the "Ham Rove Memorial Conference Room."
  • Crossroads GPS promised the IRS they would spend "limited money" on the 2012 elections. 
  • In which Obama says that if he were president in the '80s, he'd probably be thought of as a moderate Republican.

Poll of the Day

Republicans can add climate change to the list of issues on which the party diverges from public opinion. In a new Associated Press/Gfk poll, four out of five people say that global warming is a "serious" problem for the future if the government does nothing. In a separate question, 57 percent said the U.S. government should do "a great deal" to tackle global warming, and another 20 percent believe the government needs to take "some action."

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