When a respected journalist like Bob Schieffer can state, in all seriousness that defeating the NRA is the same as defeating the Nazis you know that the public discussion about guns has gone completely off the rails.
You also know that the NRA and its supporters have lost the debate. Politics involves the ability to communicate with the general public. At that the NRA has failed. As has its Republican supporters.
The best Republican communicator, Gov. Chris Christie, a member in good standing of the Colin Powell wing of the Republican Party has denounced the NRA as “reprehensible” for daring to mention that President Obama’s daughters go to a school that has armed guards.
As happens in primitive cultures people are banding together to punish a scapegoat.
It should be obvious to everyone that the rush to scapegoat the NRA covers up a more dire reality. That is: who is committing the gun violence in, say, Chicago? Who is responsible for the everyday shootings in New York City?
Those who prey on emotion would have us believe that all gun violence is created equal. They would have us believe that psychotic mass murderers belong in the same category as gang bangers in the inner cities and that they all belong to the NRA.
If they don’t, the NRA is still at fault because it defends the rights of citizens to bear arms. The simple fact that the weapons used to commit most gun violence have been stolen does not register for too many people.
None of Obama’s 23 executive orders addresses the problem of gang violence and drug wars. Not one addresses the problem of video game violence.
And what about the mayors of the cities that have the most gun violence. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel gun violence has spiked in Chicago. The city is now the murder capital of the nation.
It’s just a little too convenient for Emanuel to blame it all on the NRA and gun show loopholes.
Is the NRA the reason that Mayor Emanuel cannot ensure law and order in his own city?
Still, there’s the problem of psychotic killers, the ones who are most likely to produce the kinds of school massacres that have outraged the nation.
The great national conversation about guns does not distinguish between the psychotic killers and the gang violence that plagues more than a few of our cities.
If you do not distinguish between these, then you are not having a serious discussion.
I have often pointed out that people like James Holmes and Jared Loughner and Adam Lanza are so obviously insane that anyone with minimal sense can see it.
President Obama paid lip service to mental health services in his 23 executive orders, but the problem, as I and many others have made clear, is that our society has largely lost the right to commit psychotics to treatment facilities against their will.
This morning psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer made the point again:
Monsters shall always be with us, but in earlier days they did not roam free. As a psychiatrist in Massachusetts in the 1970s, I committed people — often right out of the emergency room — as a danger to themselves or to others. I never did so lightly, but I labored under none of the crushing bureaucratic and legal constraints that make involuntary commitment infinitely more difficult today.
Why do you think we have so many homeless? Destitution? Poverty has declined since the 1950s. The majority of those sleeping on grates are mentally ill. In the name of civil liberties, we let them die with their rights on.
A tiny percentage of the mentally ill become mass killers. Just about everyone around Tucson shooter Jared Loughner sensed he was mentally ill and dangerous. But in effect, he had to kill before he could be put away — and (forcibly) treated.
Random mass killings were three times more common in the 2000s than in the 1980s, when gun laws were actually weaker. Yet a 2011 University of California at Berkeley study found that states with strong civil commitment laws have about a one-third lower homicide rate.
Of course, it’s a lot easier to blame the NRA than to blame the ACLU. Scapegoating the NRA allows politicians to avoid addressing the problem of weak civil commitment laws.
I wrote about it at the time, but it’s worth repeating. Nancy Lanza wanted to have her son Adam committed, but it’s nearly impossible to do so in the state of Connecticut. Months before the Sandy Hook massacre state legislators in Connecticut rejected an effort to make it easier to commit people against their will.
For that the legislators and the ACLU get a pass.
Krauthammer also calls out the president for failing to address the problem of violent video games and violent movies:
We live in an entertainment culture soaked in graphic, often sadistic, violence. Older folks find themselves stunned by what a desensitized youth finds routine, often amusing. It’s not just movies. Young men sit for hours pulling video-game triggers, mowing down human beings en masse without pain or consequence. And we profess shock when a small cadre of unstable, deeply deranged, dangerously isolated young men go out and enact the overlearned narrative.
If we’re serious about curtailing future Columbines and Newtowns, everything — guns, commitment, culture — must be on the table. It’s not hard for President Obama to call out the NRA. But will he call out the ACLU? And will he call out his Hollywood friends?
We can certainly improve the public conversation by looking at the facts.
Among them this, from Krauthammer:
The irony is that over the last 30 years, the U.S. homicide rate has declined by 50 percent. Gun murders as well. We’re living not through an epidemic of gun violence but through a historic decline.
Except for these unfathomable mass murders. But these are infinitely more difficult to prevent. While law deters the rational, it has far less effect on the psychotic. The best we can do is to try to detain them, disarm them and discourage “entertainment” that can intensify already murderous impulses.
It’s not about the guns. It’s not about the NRA. What is supposed to be a great national discussion about guns is really about scoring political points.
The president has skillfully blinded the public to the real causes for gun violence and has successfully absolved those members of his own constituency who might be held responsible.