What do conservative news baron Rupert Murdoch, The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor Jason Alexander have in common? They’re among the majority of Americans who want tougher gun control — an issue that has resurfaced in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. movie theater massacre.
But don’t hold your breath. It ain’t gonna happen. So expect the bloody cycle to continue — the shocking deaths; grieving families; the sadly familiar media coverage about the killer(s), their stunned families and the lives of victims who endured terrifying final moments; the memorial services — and the brief suspension of 24/7 partisan warfare that’s merely formalized during election year.
A Gallup poll found that only 44 percent of the public doesn’t want stricter gun control. But when did lopsided poll numbers ever stop powerful interests? California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein noted that this is an election year: “I think this is a bad time to embrace such a new subject,” she said on Fox News. “There has been no action because there is no outrage out there, people haven’t rallied forward.”
Indeed, nervous Democrats — including formerly staunchly pro-gun control President Obama — aren’t making it an issue. Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney thinks existing laws are just peachy. And some GOPers absurdly insist it might have been less of a tragedy if more people in the theater had only had more guns. Meanwhile, the NRA’s feared political and financial clout gets an extra boost from Citizens United because even more money can now be funneled to defeat candidates who don’t vote as the NRA wishes.
The battle for gun control now resembles an old Wild West gunfight. Except in this one the NRA is armed and the gun-control guy has an empty holster.
Still, there have been surprising cracks in the anti-gun-control wall.
Murdoch tweeted: “We have to do something about gun controls. Police license okay for hunting rifle or pistol for anyone without crim or pscho record. No more.”
And — would you believe it? — no one on Fox & Friends said anything snarky about their boss or called him a liberal out to destroy America’s constitution.
Next came Bill Kristol, about as GOP establishment as you can get, who declared on Fox: “People have a right to handguns and hunting rifles. I don’t think they have a right to semi-automatic, quasi-machine guns that can shoot hundred bullets at a time. And I actually think the Democrats are being foolish as they are being cowardly. I think there is more support for some moderate forms of gun control.”
But Democrats, independent voters and others calling for gun control are not as cushioned from counter attack as the NRA-friendly Murdoch and Kristol. My own modest website, The Moderate Voice, had some posts calling for tougher laws, which led to a tweet claiming TMV “only wanted the government to have guns.”
There, in a nutshell you have how the debate plays out: if you seek tougher laws they charge you’re trying to take all guns away. N-o-p-e.
After Alexander advocated tougher laws in a tweet and was inundated with angry responses, he wrote a longer form answer that, in part, said: “So, sorry those of you who tell me I’m an actor, or a has-been or an idiot or a commie or a liberal and that I should shut up. You can not watch my stuff, you can unfollow and you can call me all the names you like. I may even share some of them with my global audience so everyone can get a little taste of who you are. But this is not the time for reasonable people, on both sides of this issue, to be silent. We owe it to the people whose lives were ended and ruined [in Aurora] to insist on a real discussion and hopefully on some real action.”
A real discussion? That assumes being honest. Even a porcupine knows the founders didn’t write the Second Amendment with AR-15 assault weapons in mind. As satirist Andy Borowitz notes: “When the Second Amendment was written the most lethal gun available was the musket.”
A real discussion will wait a while. Future horrors, tears, and grief won’t.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org