It took too long to start the gun control debate

Progressives, can you imagine Rachel Maddow shying away from a story high on the liberal agenda. I couldn’t until the evening of Friday, December 14,  following the horrendous massacre at SandyHook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. I had watched CNN much of the day following the shooting and then the CBS Evening News. They talked about the terrible tragedy; the pain and suffering of the families; the shame on America factor. What they didn’t directly talk about was gun control. It was as if it was a hot potato, and they didn’t want to touch it.

None of that surprised me, although it did disappoint me. However, I was sure that Rachel Maddow would address the issue head on – at the top of her evening show. No such luck. She started off reading a series of quotes about how horrible the disaster was. Because she often takes a circuitous route to cleverly get to her main point, I still had hope that she would make the issue of gun control the top story of the evening. It didn’t happen that way. It wasn’t until the second half of the show that she dedicated a few minutes to perhaps the most important factor of the incident; that we have way too many guns in our society, and we have shied away from enacting legislation to limit them. We have even been skittish about talking about guns. However, I thought that she would – in a big way. She didn’t. To her credit, she began her next show on Monday, December 17 with extensive examination of the gun control issue.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I found a public figure directly addressing the gun control issue. Marian Wright Edelman, director of the Children’s Defense Fund, made it clear:

Once again we are faced with unspeakable horror from gun violence and once again we are reminded that there is no safe harbor for our children. How young do the victims have to be and how many children need to die before we stop the proliferation of guns in our nation and the killing of innocents? The most recent statistics reveal 2,694 children and teens were killed by gunfire in 2010; 1,773 of them were victims of homicide and 67 of these were elementary school-age children. If those children and teens were still alive they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each. Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home?

Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast later told us:

Gun-rights activists had remained largely quiet on the issue since Friday’s shooting, all but one declining to appear on the Sunday talk shows.

David Gregory, the host of “Meet the Press,” said NBC invited all 31 “pro-gun” senators to appear on Sunday’s show, and all 31 declined. All eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were unavailable or unwilling to appear on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” host Bob Schieffer said.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, was the sole representative of gun rights’ activists on the various Sunday talk shows. In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Gohmert defended the sale of assault weapons and said that the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who authorities say died trying to overtake the shooter, should herself have been armed.

“I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands. But she takes him (the shooter) out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids,” Gohmert said.

Anne Flaherty of the Huffington Post wrote, three days after the shooting:

On Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin, a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, said it was time to discuss gun policy and move toward action on gun regulation. The conservative West Virginia Democrat said Monday he agrees with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has advocated banning the sale of assault weapons.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she will introduce legislation next year to ban new assault weapons, as well as big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets.

“It can be done,” Feinstein told NBC’s “Meet the Press” of reinstating the ban despite deep opposition by the powerful National Rifle Association and similar groups.

Bloomberg said Obama could use executive powers to enforce existing gun laws, as well as throw his weight behind legislation like Feinstein’s.


President Obama’s initial reaction was to dance around the issue of gun control. Perhaps this is necessary because he doesn’t want to give Republicans any additional reason to be upset with him and to shy away from a reasonable compromise on the Fiscal Cliff issue. He is well aware of the problems with guns, after three years as a community organizer in Chicago and now a witness to the record-breaking level of gun violence in his home town. While he may have reasons to shy away from the issue, at least in the short run, the media has no reason. Thanks to Marian Wright Edelman and others who had the courage to open the dialogue. Shame on CNN and CBS and probably a number of other outlets in the mainstream news.