News & Politics

Obama, Romney and the Political Silence of Gun Control


On Friday, America witnessed true terror on the television – in Aurora, Colorado, over 70 people were shot by a madman at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. James Eagan Holmes, the suspect now in custody, had been planning the attack for months and, inside of his apartment yesterday, police authorities discovered a mini-arsenal of other deadly weapons.

At the attack, he carried with him an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, shotgun and .40-caliber handgun along with thousands of clips to reload. As we mentioned yesterday, all of these murder weapons were bought legally.
Now, with a mass shooting like this, we are struck with an opportunity. Like the horrific events at Columbine and Virginia Tech, the country has this mirror moment, when we see our dark side in the reflection of the screen. Holmes’s grin and the tears of victims’ relatives are reminders of where we went wrong; the thought that our society could produce such a maniacal member bent on killing his own in cold blood. And the incredibly easy and legal gateway he was able to use to perform this atrocity.
As President Obama and Mitt Romney travel across the country, pausing their campaigns to reflect on exactly what happened that late night in the Midwestern state, they are both offered the same mirror moment we are. Except they have the power to make a difference; unfortunately, it doesn’t look that chance will be taken any time soon.
Since the shootings, both candidates running for the Oval Office have gone with the silent treatment on gun control. Instead, Obama asked for a moment of silence, rushing back to D.C. to lower the flags to half-mass and now en route to Aurora, while Romney labeled the event “a hateful act.” The four month countdown until Election Day has begun and, in politics, that’s all that matters.
Every politician treads ever so lightly with gun control; ironic, given that it is one policy area that can produce the deadliest byproducts, as we have seen this week. With the lobbying power of the NRA and the insane sensitivity of every hardcore gun owner in this country, pols on the Hill are scared that an ‘extreme’ stance on guns – in other words, ‘safety’ – will scare off the two control factors in politics: the money and the voter. Hence why Obama and Romney are keeping to themselves; as Don Kettl of the University of Maryland told Bloomberg Businessweek, “There are more downside risks than upside gains in talking about it.”
For Romney, things were different when he wasn’t campaigning for the White House: as Governor of Massachusetts, he enacted a ban on assault-style weapons. (Add that to the policy list of ‘The Romney We Used to Know,’ along with widespread care for the sick and abortion rights). Rather than acting like a President, he is behaving like an immature girlfriend. And that’s a damn shame.
As for the incumbent, the NRA and the rest of the far-right has always complained that Obama will take away their guns. Because of his silence on the whole weapons issue for the past three years, we have a President that is proving to be the most NRA-friendly in recent years. In politics, silence is not deadly.
Once again, we will lose this enormous opportunity to reset our gun laws and start afresh. We will let another terrific event pass us by without ensuring ourselves that it will never happen again. And, before an election for the highest throne in the country, this opportunity’s value is multiplied ten fold. So, let’s start acting like citizens and bring noise to this all too quiet issue. We’ll let the Mayor of New York City speak for us:
It’s time for both of them to be called, held accountable. You know, we spend all our time talking about tax returns, and gaffes, and things like that. This is one of those issues, along with a handful of others, that really matter to the American public. It matters to the future of our country, it matters to you and me and to our children and grandchildren. And it’s time I think that we hold them accountable and say, ‘Okay, you want our votes? What are you going to do?'”

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