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Friday, February 16, 2018

Abbreviated pundit roundup: The NRA can be beat

We begin today’s roundup with The New York Times and its editorial on diminishing the influence of the NRA:
With midterm elections coming up this fall, America has a chance to get that message across. Candidates must realize that reducing gun violence is a winning and moral issue. Aggressive turnout by voters who believe this can defeat the N.R.A. at the polls. Until then, the bloodshed will continue.
Russel Berman at The Atlantic highlights the fact that even modest gun safety measures are poisoned by the NRA:
In December, on a vote that largely fell along party lines, the House had passed legislation to tighten up the National Instant Background Check System, in response to the revelation that the gunman in Texas had a record of domestic violence that should have barred him from purchasing a gun.
“That’s a piece of legislation we passed that’s sitting in the Senate,” Ryan said.
What the speaker did not mention was why the bill hasn’t passed the Senate, or why only six Democrats voted for it in the House: In addition to the modest changes to background checks, the legislation secured for the National Rifle Association its top federal priority—a provision treating concealed-carry permits essentially as driver’s licenses that would override the stricter regulations of individual states.
John Cassidy analyzes how Republicans bear primary responsibility for the gun violence epidemic:
The Republicans bear the primary responsibility, though. Ever since Sandy Hook, it is their craven subservience to the gun lobby that has prevented meaningful action, even as the carnage that Rubio referred to has continued. “Turn on your televisions right now and you are going to see scenes of children running for their lives,” Chris Murphy, the junior Democratic senator for Connecticut, said on the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon. “Let me just note once again for my colleagues: this happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting, it only happens here. Not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”
The key concept in that excellent peroration was responsibility. Even with the blood of defenseless children flowing along the corridors of schoolhouses, the U.S. government has abdicated its duty to protect. And that, it bears repeating ad nauseum, is a national disgrace.
The USA Today editorial board:
The reality is, this should not be an either-or debate between mental health and guns. The challenge, as always, is to separate the most disturbed individuals from the deadliest weapons. [...]
But one definitive way to reduce — not end — the carnage is to dial down the killing power of these broken individuals by making it far more difficult for them to obtain their killing tools of choice: assault-style rifles equipped with high-capacity magazines.
These weapons, with their high muzzle velocity and low recoil, cause catastrophic damage to the human body, likely the reason most of the students and teachers shot Wednesday died of their wounds. Moreover, 70% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats favor banning these firearms.
Other commonsense steps, with high public approval but resisted by the gun lobby, include toughening background checks and outlawing "bump stock" devices — employed by Paddock in Las Vegas — that effectively turn semiautomatic rifles into machine guns.
Paul Waldman at The Week points out that we can act and that claiming we can’t change the situation is simply wrong:
The blood hasn't even been cleaned off the floor before you can find prominent Republicans saying that gun violence is like the weather. You might want to prepare for it — give your kids active shooter drills, like you'd put an umbrella in your bag if you think it might rain — but it certainly can't be stopped. [...] Imagine what the response would be if after a terrorist attack, a senator said, "There's no point in beefing up security at airports. If someone has decided to commit an act of terrorism, they'll find a way to do it. Evil is, sadly, always present."
James Fallows at The Atlantic:
There are things that can be done to reduce the frequency of gun massacres. We know that because in every other developed country on Earth they have been done, and have made a difference. Australia, Scotland, Norway, Canada, Germany, Finland—these and other countries have had occasional horrific mass shootings. These countries have just as high a proportion of mentally ill people as the United States does, just as many with pent-up grievances. But only America has an endless series of gun killings.
Here is Eugene Robinson’s take:
Don’t tell me the issue is mental health. Save the nonsense about “good guys” with weapons somehow being the answer. The truth is this: There would have been no tragic shooting Wednesday in Parkland, Fla. , if a troubled young man had not gotten his hands on a military-style assault rifle and as much ammunition as he wanted.
On a final note, don’t miss this powerful op-ed by Joe LaGuardia, who twice has been affected by gun violence:
Weapons that have torn the bodies of my father and my friend asunder — and our children! — go unchecked.
People have encouraged me to write my representatives, but I've given up on that. I don't have representatives. Who will Sen. Marco Rubio listen to, me or the lobby that has paid him $3.3 million in campaign contributions?
The last time we had a mass shooting, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was not the right time to talk politics about guns but to pray. I am still waiting for that conversation.

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