Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – When President Obama appeared on camera to lament yet another mass shooting, this one at a Naval Yard just a few miles from the White House, his weary resignation showed with his use of the word “another” to describe the tragedy that killed 12 people along with the shooter. Then he went back to an event marking the fifth anniversary of the economic meltdown, abruptly shifting his focus even as much of Washington remained in lockdown fearing there might be a second shooter.
There was no discussion of legislative options to curb gun violence, or a vow that he would somehow intervene to fix what is wrong, if somehow we could find agreement on what that is. What came across was an acceptance that this is an ongoing historical anomaly, part and parcel of our way of life in a political climate where Second Amendment gun rights are paramount.
This kind of mass violence doesn’t happen in other countries with the same kind of awful regularity it does here. What will it take to shock the political system into more than a pro-forma response? The shooting of a member of Congress and the grievous wounds former Rep. Gabby Giffords suffers today wasn’t enough; the cold-blooded murder of six year olds in their classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary wasn’t enough; the loss of a dozen people working as Navy contractors is prompting a review of security procedures at all military installations, as it should, but the response will likely stop there.
The mental health difficulties that the shooter, 34-year-old Navy veteran Aaron Alexis, was experiencing should have raised red flags to prevent him getting a security clearance to enter the Washington naval base, and more focus on recognizing what makes a person turn violent is certainly appropriate. Restoring cuts that have been made in public health and increasing access to psychiatric care would benefit everyone, but this Congress is not about spending money; it only wants to cut supports for people like Alexis, who are disturbed and dangerous.
But mental health recognition and treatment present one leg of a solution. The other leg is the registration of guns and licensing of gun owners. We require this for cars and drivers. Yet, the gun culture and its gun lobby fight this, claiming a Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.” But that is taken out of context of the full amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
However, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the five-justice majority in the Supreme Court’s 2008 “District of Columbia v. Heller” decision: “The right of the whole people, old and young, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, not such merely as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed, curtailed, or broken in upon, in the smallest degree . . . .”
This effectively undermined the guns-for-militia-only argument, and it will stand until the makeup of the court changes. Meanwhile, the court did modify this stance to exclude felons and the mentally ill from gun ownership, and it has specified that guns can be prohibited from schools and government buildings.
The net result of all this is that the gun lobby has staunch allies in five of the nine the Supreme Court justices, and this alone will inhibit progress in gun safety laws, which is why President Obama said, “Another,” with sad resignation, It was a one-word lamentation of more horrors to come.
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND