We should be ashamed of the shooting after shooting on our streets and in our schools. We should be ashamed that Congress sits on its hands and does nothing to curb the slaughter.
That was how President Barack Obama characterized the issue of gun violence in a discussion with Tumblr founder David Karp the other day, and the president got it exactly right.
Eighteen months ago, 20 children were murdered in a grade school in Connecticut — and nothing was done to expand background checks or limit weapons clips. Since then, there have been 74 shootings at schools — the latest last week in Oregon left two dead and one wounded — and still nothing is done. And that’s just schools; that doesn’t count the shootings in theaters, temples, churches and incidents such as the recent Las Vegas spree that left two police officers, a Walmart customer and the two shooters dead.
And now, with the defeat of the No. 2 Republican in the House, Eric Cantor, the chances of anything getting done are even slimmer. Cantor, a Virginia Republican, who some critics said was too soft on defending gun rights as well as immigration reform, lost in a stunning upset to a tea party candidate in a GOP primary Tuesday. His defeat likely will both embolden the tea party wing of the Republican Party and make any remaining establishment Republicans more cautious. That means little action on issues such as gun control and immigration reform.
"The country has to do some soul-searching on this. This is becoming the norm," Obama said Tuesday. "Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced developed country on Earth that would put up with this."
Yes, mental health is an issue related to violence, and we have to find better ways of dealing with it. But other countries have people with mental illnesses and don’t have shootings on this scale. As Obama said, "The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people." Yet "we’re the only developed country" that repeatedly has such terrible acts. "There’s no place else like this," the president said.
This does not mean the end of the Second Amendment. We can respect gun and hunter rights and still curb gun violence. Australia has done it. Other countries have done it.
It’s fear of the political clout of the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers that is the biggest factor in Congress’ failure to act. Obama also noted that although polls show that a majority of Americans support steps to control guns, they don’t feel passionately enough about it to punish lawmakers who disagree. "Until that happens, sadly, not that much is going to change."
Obama called the failure to achieve reasonable gun restrictions the biggest frustration of his presidency. It should be the biggest frustration for all Americans. Voters need to not only support tighter gun control; they need to get angry with politicians who refuse to act. And then punish them at the polls.