Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bring the fire, Mr. President

   When fighting a fire, one strategy is to start another one.

   When a wildfire is chewing up acreage, setting a fire in its path and letting the intentionally set flames burn away available ground cover can dramatically slow the foe.

   That's all we can ask in the face of America's gun-death inferno. That's what the president did last week. Bring the fire.

   President Obama knows what's coming. If the first salvo — National Rifle Association buying TV ads pulling his daughters into the debate — is any indication, it's going to be beyond vicious, even if every proposal Obama makes is reasoned and reasonable.

    It's got to happen. Bring the fire.

    Vice President Biden said, "We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of  the good." We must do what is possible in the face of the expected blister of flame and fury.

    One bogus assertion is that to prevent tragedies like Newtown, Aurora and Tucson, Obama is focused only on guns. Those who claim this either aren't listening or haven't been wearing their ear protection at the target range. In his Jan. 16 speech, he addressed addressing mental health issues. He talked of helping schools beef up security if they desire. He mentioned entertainment's influence on violence. Each is a concern worth examining. And what are we doing to understand what's happening?

    Since 1996, for instance, legislation put forth by the gun lobby has meant that the Centers for Disease Control cannot study gun violence as a health issue. That year a bill sponsored by Congressman Jay Dickey, R-Ark., forbade money's going "to advocate or promote gun control." This stopped statistical and forensic studies by the CDC focused on guns' role in so many deaths, for instance — how do these weapons typically flow into the wrong hands?

   Among President Obama's new directives is one to ease such research restrictions. (Interestingly, in the wake of so much gun carnage, Congressman Dickey has modified his views and supports new research.) What Congress did in '96 had the ideological markings of what has happened under the Bush administration to stifle research that would confirm man's role in climate change. And don't forget restrictions on embryonic stem cell research which blocked crucial lifesaving developments. All are know-nothing directives from the do-nothing set.

   As for actual restrictions on sales of weapons, the most ridiculous argument is that such laws will be ignored by criminals. Name a law with which a criminal will abide. Does that obviate the need for any limits on human behavior?

    High-capacity clips have no business in anyone's hands unless that person is hired by us to protect us. The reason Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner didn't kill more people is that after shooting off more than 30 rounds he had to reload, and bystanders tackled him.

    Anyone who asserts that he or she needs 30-round clips for self-protection or sport will also make the claim that he needs surface-to-air missiles for bringing down pheasants and a bazooka to ward off door-to-door solicitors. And watch, they will.

    Bring the fire, Mr. President. Benefit from the gun lobby's broadsides, as when your opposition tried to make you out to look like something other than an American, something other than a lover of country, something alien and dangerous. The voters saw what you are: a reasoned, reasonable, sometimes too moderate, often too conciliatory leader.

    Nothing Obama has proposed would take away a single gun now in possession. But that's what we're told by those who would wish that we do nothing in the face of flames that have consumed so many lives, blackening in grief so many parcels of this land.

    Let the NRA belch flames. Let its overstatements and carnal rage clear the ground around a vital public health issue, and then let's fight this fire.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.



No comments: