Tonight our President gave a State of the Union address. He laid out plans for improving the economy, the military, education and science funding, about pulling together Republicans and Democrats, and various reforms. Survivors from the Tucson shooting were in attendance. What would he say about the shooting or gun violence?
I started out hopeful. Not since the Virginia Tech massacre, or really the Columbine massacre, has public discourse and opinion turned so strongly toward sensible gun legislation. In the past month we've had a shooting of a sitting Congresswoman, a federal judge, a young girl, and 16 others in a single massacre in Tucson, and in the last 24 hours the shooting of 13 law enforcement officers, and an estimated 6700 other Americans in January alone.
Each of the senators and congressmen had an awareness ribbon on their chest in honor of the Giffords shooting: a white ribbon with a black stripe through the middle ("The white ribbon represents hope for a peaceful, nonviolent society. The black ribbon is in remembrance of all who have died and been wounded as a result of violence."). A promising start. Interestingly, the President chose not to wear one.
But what did the President say about gun violence? He acknowledged the shooting in Tucson by highlighting Gifford's empty seat. Great! I thought. A moment later, he added, "But there's a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause." I leaned forward. Yes? Is he going to lay out our culture of violence and the ease of which anyone can get a gun? Mention the need for mandatory background checks for all gun purchases? The excessiveness of a 30-round large ammo clip? Strengthening mental illness records? No! Instead he goes on to say that the reason the tragedy gives us pause is because we need to rise above party and political differences to fulfill our dreams and the promise of America.
Well, that's well and good, Mr. President, and I agree, but it hardly strikes at the cause of the tragedy! That's not why I paused. There was no mention of the McCarthy bill to ban large ammo clips, or the Tucson shooter's ability to fire 32 rounds in only 16 seconds. There was no mention of the proposal to require background checks for all purchases. There was no mention of improving mental health records in those background checks. In fact, there was no mention at all about our culture of violence and guns.
His acknowledgment of the issue was as empty as Giffords' chair.
Would bringing up the issue of gun violence have been "dancing in the blood of victims" as some pro-gun people have written? If that's what it takes to call attention to the issue, I'll do a freakin' tango in a pool of it! They didn't shed their blood just to have us ignore the issue! This isn't taking advantage of the unfortunate. It is calling attention to yet another example of our policies gone wrong. Instead, the NRA and pro-gun folks would rather take a hose and wash it away. "Nothing to see here folks! Just some red stuff. It's gone now. Just a random bad guy doing his thing. Go about your business and honor the 2nd amendment. There's a gun store just down the street."
Mr. President, and members of Congress, I call upon you to pay attention to the issue of gun violence and pass sensible legislation. Solutions are out there, being proposed right now, to create a new trajectory for our nation away from gun violence. Now is the time! If this shooting or past mass shootings aren't enough to spur you into action, what, exactly, will it take? How many must die to rouse your attention? For four years, we haven't even had an ATF director. 100,000 shootings a year isn't enough death, maiming, and shattered lives?? What will it take for change? Tell me!
A related article, by Shikha Hamilton: http://www.examiner.com/gun-control-in-san-francisco/obama-honors-empty-chair-yet-offers-empty-solutions
Another related article: http://www.golfersguide.com/puttingandpolitics/index.php/2011/01/26/win-the-future-forget-about-reducing-gun-violence/
And another related article from Paul Helmke: http://blog.bradycampaign.org/?p=3128