Obama: “Shame On Us If We’ve Forgotten”

“The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we’ve moved on to other things, that’s not who we are.  That’s not who we are. 

And I want to make sure every American is listening today.  Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked.  And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different.  Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.  I haven’t forgotten those kids.  Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”

—President Obama, March 28, 2013

wwhen you think about it, the dysfunction in our nation’s capital, mostly caused by Tea Party Republican’s unwillingness to accept the political legitimacy of their opponents, is more obvious and discouraging not in the battles over budgets and deficits and debt, but in the battle over something as simple and commonsensical as requiring universal background checks for folks who want to purchase weapons.

It really is amazing that the President of the United States has to fight so hard to secure something so simple and so practical and so necessary for our nation’s well-being.

President Obama asked a series of questions on Thursday that deserve answers:

Why wouldn’t we want to make it more difficult for a dangerous person to get his or her hand on a gun? 

Why wouldn’t we want to close the loophole that allows as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases to take place without a background check? 

Why wouldn’t we do that?

President Obama on gun violenceThe President mentioned that 90% of Americans, including “more than 80 percent of Republicans,” support universal background checks, which simply means closing the current loopholes in the law that allow private sales, such as at gun shows, to go unchecked. Yet if these new-and-improved background checks become law, it will take a relatively strong offensive by the American people and those in Congress who support common sense on making the country a little bit safer when it comes to guns.

And nothing, not disagreements about Medicare, ObamaCare, or the dark and Randian components of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, demonstrates just how broken and malfunctional is our national legislature—because extremist Republicans mean to break it and keep it from working—than this one simple issue of requiring a universal five-minute background check on people who wish to purchase killing machines.

 

15 Comments

  1. C’mon, Mr. President. Don’t bring this up now. It’s NCAA basketball tournament time. I gotta go buy more beer and Doritos.

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  2. Duane,

    Good points, as usual. But I don’t think the gun issue, in all of its aspects, is a matter of forgetting the victims. Sympathy and compassion are simply unhelpful here.

    I believe one of the reasons the gun control issue is failing is that there is the feeling, just below the surface, that we live in a police state. With the mass shootings in schools and shopping centers and movie theaters, the rampant gang shootings in the larger metro areas, the metal detectors that are becoming more and more common, the zero tolerance for anything, including fingers, that might represent guns in our public schools (carried out to the absurd degree), the ridiculous notion that we have to take our shoes off before we can board an airplane, all the surveillance drones, ubiquitous video cameras and GPS tracking systems, the ability of the government to detain and even kill American citizens without affording them their Constitutional rights, and the attacks on unarmed protesters, such as the OWS, by police with pepper spray and billy clubs, has left the nation flummoxed over what to do.

    Those events and more have helped to create a fear, and even a little justifiable paranoia, that we are more and more under siege by our government and living, nervously, in a state of martial law.

    It is no wonder, then, that millions of Americans have seized upon the protection of the 2nd Amendment as what they perceive to be their last best hope of security and liberty. (Benjamin Franklin’s quote to the contrary notwithstanding.) Too many of us simply don’t trust the government. And that distrust is growing.

    I don’t have any solutions for this issue. But I am concerned. The gun meme is alive and well and getting stronger.

    Herb

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    • Herb, if that’s true, that we’re increasingly concerned about anarchy in the streets, why is it that younger people are less inclined to want own guns than older people? Could it be that older people are just more cynical and paranoid? And Anson, a majority of the American people aren’t against gun control; it’s a majority of the gerrymandered Republican House. Two different things.

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      • ansonburlingame

         /  March 29, 2013

        OK Brad, let’s see if the Senate passes a gun control bill using Presidentail guidelines. We already see that won’t happen! Then watch what tne House does. Probably junk it and come up, maybe, with one of their own, or more likely nothing and just let status quo rule as the NRA prefers. Now which chamber reflects, supposedly, the “will of the people” on a day to day matter. Both chambers seem to me right now to be willing to “buck that trend”.

        I don’t like “reactionary conservatives” any more than you do. But I don’t try to blame every ill of the country to them. I think if you lefties could somehow prevail, welll……

        Go read my new blog on “CONGRESSIONAL ABDICATION”, using Jim Webb’s recent article as a springboard for that tirade!!

        Anson

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    • Everyone sees the GOP as vanquished from the last election, but they did pretty well just two years ago. With the 2014 election, we’ll again see an electorate older and whiter (mid-term turnouts are smaller) and if guns become an issue like healthcare did in 2010, I think we’ll see the GOP make gains. Midterms in the second term are usually bad for the party in the Whitehouse anyway.

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      • Bruce,

        For the reasons you point out, Democrats, particularly through entities like Organizing for Action (the old Obama campaign operation turned into a 501(c)4 group, are waging a much more aggressive fight this time than in 2010.

        Still, you are right. It will be difficult for Democrats to keep the Senate, not to mention take back the House.

        Duane

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  March 29, 2013

    The “gun meme” has been a part of America since its beginning, Herb. And yes, it still remains so and not just from just the “fringes”. Duane of course lays the blame on Tea Party GOPers. From what I read and hear today there are Democrats all over the place pussy footing around this issue as well. Wonder how many of Bloombergs ads right now are targeted in Democrat areas of the country?

    If in fact 80% of GOPers support universal background checks, why does the President have to give us a “shame on us” lecture? It should be a slam dunk, but obviously it is not. Think Harry Reid might well be pussy footing around on that point??? I do.

    America is no longer the Wild Wild West, but many think it is and want to keep it that way. I wonder exactly how many that may be. Obviously it is enough to thwart a reasonable, yes I said reasonable, effort by the President to change such a “culture”. But he is having a helluva time doing so in the face of………

    I SUPPORT the oultines for gun control initially espoused by the President and Senator Finstein as well. I also support the NY legislation recently passed. But I am in the minority it seems, for sure around here and see no way to overcome that majority view across America today. He can shake his finger in the face of the majority of Americans and will lose ground politically in doing so it seems as well.

    Duane should submit this blog as a guest column in the Globe and see what he gets back as well!!!! And he won’t change any of those minds, either.

    Anson

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  4. I am quite upset with the “pussy-footing” by many Democrats in the Senate, Anson, especially Harry Reid. After he caved on the filibuster to the most evil Mitch McConnell, and there was not a resounding condemnation from Democratic Senators, I came to the conclusion that the Senate is hopelessly so mired in stupid tradition that it needs to be fixed or abolished. Now, in spite of polls that show the public favoring universal background checks (I am beginning to doubt the polls, too) Reid won’t bring anything up on the gun control issue. Obviously, he is afraid of Propaganda Minister Wayne LaPierre, who is paid over a million a year to spread lies and fear and have people despise him, and the NRA to do his job.

    Our government is now representing special interests and not the people, and I include both parties in this. Until big money is taken out of politics, and the corporate ownership of politicians is stopped, our political system is doomed to fail. When greed by less than one percent of the population, including the majority of our governmental leaders who would sell their souls for reelection, is dictating politics, the American people will continue to suffer while the .05 will prosper.

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  March 30, 2013

    JD,

    Good to see you and I can agree on a “hot topic”, gun control. But for sure the difficulty getting control of those weapons in some small part is NOT a one percenter problem.

    I will have to think further on this, but please consider that the vast majority of Americans hate for government to tell them what to do if they don’t want to do it. Of course most Americans will gladly accept “stuff” FROM government, particularly when it is “free”. But tell someone, anyone what they cannot do, well Americans hate that kind of government and are deeply suspicious over such actions, guns, sex, war, taxes, you name it.

    The political divide today is over what things government should force people to do. Radical conservatives demand NOT allowing things that God says (according to them) not to do. Liberals want to put the burden on the 1% and demand what they think is “right” and of course the 1% fight back, just like gun advocates fight back today.

    Jim Webb, in a recent article, nailed it in my view by calling such shenaigans Congressional Abdication. His focus was on foreign policy in that condemnation of Congress failing to fulfill its constitutionally mandated authority. In my view he is correct, for sure.

    But on the other hand I see Congress monkeying around with stuff that would amaze many of the Founders of the Constitution.

    Bottom line is we see Congress all over the map, not doing things originally demanded of government and doing things only allowed by “penumbras”, constitutionally.

    I for one would love to see our federal government do what it is supposed to do, constitutionally and let the states take care of the rest of things, as prescribed, constitutionally. And if some things are really important to do by the federal government today that was not envisioned as a federal responsibility “back then” well change the constitution to make it so BEFORE you let the federal government tell us what to do or not to do in such areas.

    Always keep in mind, as well, when the sweep of the responsibility of any bureaucracy gets bigger and bigger, well watch out. Yes the federal government must and should levy taxes. But check out the tax codes today, so many volumes that hardly anyone can figure out what is legal or illegal. I still don’t understand why we can’t just require every adult American to add up his or her income and tax that number by a given percentage to fund the federal government to fulfil its constitutional mandate?

    I don’t like loopholes any more than you do, probably. But I also don’t like the federal government trying to use the ??? amendment (Income taxes) to redistribute MY income, or anyone elses either.

    I would also suggest that anytime a President issues an Executive Order that Congress take note and ask why THEY did not legislate a law for such actions to relieve the need for such executive action by a perhaps “over eager monarch” (see Webb’s article or my blog).

    Anson

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  6. I’m not sure I’d blame little or no action on Newtown as being due to current dysfunction. I’m almost 60 now, and it seems to this is just a cycle I’ve seen maybe a dozen. Starting with maybe the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, we have gun related tragedies. (more recentlyThere’s Columbine, the shooting Gabby Giffords, the Aurora theater shooting, and too many more to list) a furor about them for a time, but in the end gun owners are much more passionate in a sustained way than advocate of gun safety measures are – little or no action in the end. Frankly given that gun owners are passionate about guns, I don’t think we’re going to legislate them out of existence, and trying to would create problems akin to Prohibition, maybe worse. I think little action is inevitable and kind of sad, but likely the best realistic outcome.

    Don’t I sound rather cynical.

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    • You sound realistic, Bruce. The only thing likely to pass is a mild version of closing the loopholes in background checks.

      You are right about the depth of passion on the gun-owner side (whose numbers are diminishing). Their intensity has hitherto been unmatched, but there is some intensity on the common-sense side this time, along with some money from Bloomberg and others. I suspect that gains will be made incrementally, as demographics change the country and its politics.

      For the record, I don’t advocate legislating guns “out of existence.” They are here to stay. But it is remarkable to me, as an observer of our politics, that there is so little support in the Republican Party for common sense on the issue.

      Duane

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  7. All that said I think President’s proposal seems reasonable, but I wouldn’t go much further.

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  8. ansonburlingame

     /  April 1, 2013

    Bruce,

    Cycnicism is not always bad, in my view. But sometimes such thoughts lead to a conclusion that “nothing in fact can be done” about some problems, at least on the part of government.

    Consider two huge issues today in the public eye, gun control and abortion.

    The constitution answered the question of controlling guns 200 plus years ago on the part of the federal government. It very simply said “don’t do it”, Mr. federal government. On abortion it said NOTHING, specifically, for federal actions in on that issue. Yet here we are today spending huge political capital and money as well to attempt to use the federal government to solve those problems.

    A simple reading of the constitution suggests the federal government has NO specific authority to even try to settle such issues. Thus by the 10th Amendment, the States MAY attempt to regulate them, one way or the other.

    I support better gun control AND choice by individuals in terms of abortion, liberal that I am??? But I am sick of the federal argument in both cases. “Bring it home to Missouri” and let’s argue those thinks in MO., not Washington, DC, is my suggestion. I will probably lose both arguments in MO as well, but at least it will be resolved democratically in MO rather than some sweeping and moralistic actions in DC.

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      Actually, and sometimes sadly, the Constitution only means what SCOTUS says it means. A simple reading of the language won’t get it. For example, there is nothing in the original Constitution that prohibits women from voting. It was the states, through the 10th Amendment, that imposed that restriction. Thus, an Amendment was needed for women’s suffrage that applied to the entire country. That was done in 1920 through the 19th Amendment.

      The 10th Amendment has been a thorny issue since the Civil War. But Congress can always hang its hat on the “Necessary and Proper Clause” in Article 1, Section 8, clause 18, to justify any of its laws and apply them to all states.

      In any case, I think we may have reached a point in our history where the federal government is so pervasive and so intertwined with the life of every citizen, that the states have become redundant. I’d like to see a study (paid for by a government grant of course) to see how many billions could be saved by eliminating states and setting up, say, 10 regions. Although, admittedly, I would really miss the OU – Texas football game every October.

      Herb

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      • I like your 10 region idea, Herb, but I’m afraid Missouri would get tossed in with Oklahoma, which would be a deal breaker for me.

        Duane

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