At a moment when the country needs resolve and fearlessness to reduce the affliction of gun violence that kills more than 80 people a day, both presidential candidates have kicked away the opportunity for leadership. On Wednesday, reacting to the mass murder in Colorado last week, Mitt Romney and President Obama paid lip service to the problem but ducked when the chance arose to stand up for their former principles.
That’s not terribly surprising in the case of Mitt Romney, who has built an entire campaign around an avoidance of specifics and a refusal to take unpopular positions. The governor who once showed mettle by banning assault weapons in Massachusetts told Brian Williams of NBC News that he now believes the country needs no new gun laws and no government action at all.
“Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential,” Mr. Romney said, though he provided not a clue on how he plans to reach that heart and help reduce the nation’s tolerance of violence. He didn’t even seem to understand the gun laws that are in place, saying the Colorado shooter “shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons.” In fact, all of the shooter’s purchases, including an assault rifle, were perfectly legal in the state.
Though Mr. Romney expressed faith in the federal requirement for background checks before buying a gun, he didn’t acknowledge how porous the federal system is — largely by allowing unchecked sales at gun shows — and how much more effective tighter state regulations have been in restricting trafficking in places like California.
States with strict gun-control laws have significantly fewer firearms deaths, according to studies of federal data. Policies like banning assault weapons and requiring trigger locks and safe storage actually work, though few politicians can be heard advocating them.
In a way, President Obama’s remarks were even more disappointing because he fell far short of offering a solution even though he clearly demonstrated an understanding of the problem.
“For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans,” he told the National Urban League convention. “For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland.”
But his plan to address the problem appeared to consist of summer jobs for young people and crime reduction programs in cities — perfectly fine ideas but much too weak to reduce the tools of urban bloodshed. He talked about enhanced background checks to weed out criminals and the mentally ill but said nothing about closing the gun-show loophole or the ease with which the mentally ill can get their gun rights restored. (The National Rifle Association insisted on making it easy, a position that the president could fight against without fear of significant opposition.)
The N.R.A. has even blocked federal studies on how to improve background checks, or the effect of high-capacity ammunition clips, as The Times found last year. At a minimum, the president could demand better research and solid data to help make the case for strengthened legislation.
Instead, Mr. Obama spoke largely in platitudes. AK-47s should be in the hands of soldiers, not criminals, he said. Well, yes. Automatic military weapons like the AK-47 have been banned since 1934, making any civilian who possesses one a criminal. The more pressing issue is semiautomatic rifles like the extremely popular AR-15 in combination with high-capacity clips, used by the gunman in Aurora to fire multiple high-powered rounds at moviegoers.
Both candidates once favored banning these kinds of assault weapons. What happened to their courage?
EDITORIAL, The NewYork Times
Published: July 26, 2012
Source : Candidates Cower on Gun Control