Obama’s remarks in Newtown last night were powerful, I thought, and pretty unambiguous on the subject of whether he plans to do something about this:
In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom.
He also spoke very eloquently on the fragility of being a parent:
With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves -- our child -- is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child's very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won't -- that we can't always be there for them.
But the political part of the speech, of course, was that first graf I’ve quoted. He sounds like he’s decided that he’s ready to have this fight, although we don’t yet know in what specific ways.
Something is changing when Senator Joe Manchin says what he said on Morning Joe today, that “this has changed the dialogue” and “we need action.” Also, and this is precisely on point: "I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. I don't know anyone that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about."
I know Joe slightly. Our families have known each other for a long time. My late father and Joe’s family were both in Democratic politics in West Virginia in one form or another since the 1950s. For Manchin to say this is a big deal. Granted he just won reelection and won’t have to face West Virginia’s voters for another six years. But he’s a cautious and conservative fellow on these types of issues, and he knows the pulse of the West Virginia voter pretty well, and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be talking like this if he felt it were inordinately risky to do so. Let’s watch and see if any Democrats from similar states—Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, et cetera—speak similarly.
I notice below a few angry reactions and some eye-rolling ones to my previous post. Fine. That’s what we’re here for, to mix it up. I actually liked the way one commenter amended my notion about people having to rent assault weapons at the firing range to this: People should still be able to purchase and own such weapons, but they must be kept at the firing range. After all, that’s the only place they’re legitimately used. Other categories of less lethal handguns could still be kept in the home for “protection.” But you keep your semi-automatics at the range. What’s the problem, really?
And if you don’t like that idea, then you ought to come up with some others. Unless you think we can just go on like this, which is an interesting position to defend.