Newtown aftermath: Glints of sunlight on the gun front
Here's a Newtown six-year-old, commenting about slain friend Jack Pinto: "We just played all the time. I can't believe I'm never going to see him again."
According to the gun-fetish lobby, that sort of thing is simply the price we must pay for Freedom. But the good news today is that most Americans now appear to believe (finally!) that this price is way too high.
Granted, I doubt there will ever be a mass revolt against the prevalence of guns - death by trigger is too deeply embedded in our DNA - and the feds say that 14,900 newly manufactured firearms enter the U.S. market each day of the year. We're basically numb about stats like that. For instance, we'd surely be scared witless if Al Qaeda had slaughtered 47,856 Americans on home soil between 2006 and 2010, right? Yet that's the number of Americans shot dead by fellow Americans during that time span, and few of us seemed to give a damn.
Until now. What makes Newtown different (at least for the foreseeable future) is that the slaughter has pierced the heart of every parent who has ever sent kids out the door. And it speaks to any American who can remember what it was like to be six years old, playing "all the time" with a best friend. Which is why we're witnessing these welcome developments:
1. A totally quiescent NRA. The leading gun-fetish lobby group hasn't uttered a peep since the news broke on Friday. Not a single response to press inquiries. Not a single tweet. Not a single mention of the massacre on its website. No rebuttal to the protestors who marched to its Washington office yesterday. And no activity on its Facebook page... actually, that's an understatement. The NRA, at least for now, has taken down its Facebook page. On some cognitive level, the NRA knows that its arguments don't wash, not in the current climate. No doubt the group is waiting things out, and preparing to operate in the shadows, to throw sand in the gears of any reform legislation, but for now it's refreshing not to hear the usual claptrap about how civilian assault rifles are staples of Second Amendment freedom.
2. A private equity firm anounced yesterday that it will sell Freedom Group, the perversely-named company that manufactures the assault weapon that terminated the childhoods of Jack Pinto and his 19 schoolmates. Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity parent, was making good money from its Freedom asset, but it has decided that blood money is a deal breaker.
In a statement, Cerberus said: "It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level. We believe that this decision allows us to meet our obligations to the investors whose interests we are entrusted to protect, without being drawn into the national debate that is more properly pursued by those with the formal charter and public responsibility to do so." Which is as close to a moral confession as you'll ever get from a private equity firm. And reform probably won't happen unless the gun industry's corporate overlords deem it in their interest to acquiesce.
3. Some gun-friendly lawmakers on Capitol Hill are starting to speak up for sanity. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said yesterday: "I've got an A rating from the NRA. But the status quo isn't acceptable. I've got three daughters. They asked me on Friday evening, 'Dad, what are you gonna do about this?' There's got to be a way to put reasonable restrictions, particularly as we look at assault weapons, as we look at these fast clips of ammunition." Another hunting-state Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said: "Who would have ever thought, in America, or anywhere in the world, that children would be slaughtered? You know, that - it's changed me," which is why he now believes that "everything should be on the table."
And Kentucky Democratic congressman John Yarmuth lamented yesterday that he had "largely been silent on the issue of gun violence over the past six years. I am now sorry for that" - whereupon he committed a blasphemy, at least by Kentucky standards. He assailed the gun-fetish powerhouse: "The National Rifle Association has spent untold millions of dollars instilling fear in our citizens and our politicians. That organization, which regularly fails to represent the responsible attitudes of its members, wants us to believe that the best protection against the irresponsible and lethal use of guns is for everyone to be armed. And while no specific gun regulation may have prevented the deaths of the 20 Sandy Hook Elementary children, 6 and 7-year-old children, the answer simply cannot be a gun in every elementary school lunchbox."
No Republican on Capitol Hill has said anything similar (natch), but, hey, any glints of sunlight are welcome. Let it also be noted that the NRA spent $14 million to defeat President Obama in 2012, and we've seen the results of that investment. Now it's his turn to return the favor - and to hopefully demonstrate that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was correct on Sunday when he insisted that the NRA's power is "vasty overrated."
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