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It's time for real change

Donna Brazile

Donna Brazile

Before a grieving audience packing an auditorium, sitting in a cathedral-like hush, President Obama spoke perhaps the most important words of his presidency: "We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change."

"This is our first task — caring for our children," he said. "It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged." Are we, he asked, "truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?"

"If we're honest with ourselves," the president said, "the answer is no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change."

Obama is right, of course. We are not doing enough to protect our children, to give them the fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There have been and will be many conversations about what happened at Newtown, about why and wherefore and what should we do — or not do. There will be discussions about liberty, about values, about morals and the decline thereof, about our culture of violence, about social causes like TV and video games vs. individual responsibility. Some discussions will be rational, some may be productive, many will spin out of control to become more fodder for the modern media's "he said/she said" demonizer machine.

And they will all miss the point. Yes, we must talk about the dysfunctional state of our mental health care system — part of the problem with our overall health care system.

But it won't do to simply point out where we spend our money — $4.6 billion on guns and gear in 2009 (and that's before the "gundamentalist" hysteria campaign got started), and $2,000 per capita on child health care that same year. Nor will it do to point out that the United States is an outlier when it comes to gun killings — almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined.

Nor will it do to scoff at Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert's looney-tunes suggestion that the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal should have 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 and takes him out and takes his head off." Why should we scoff? Because, as Mother Jones reports, after analyzing 62 mass killings over the last 30 years, in not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.

What will do is reclaiming the conversation. To do so, we have to look at how we talk about these events. As Jay Heinrichs, author of "Thank You For Arguing," points out, we must stop using euphemisms. "Tragedy" is a euphemism; it implies something sad but inevitable. What happened in Newtown was a massacre. A massacre of children. "Gundamentalists" (Heinrichs' term) will want to focus on code words like "liberty" and the "Second Amendment" and the stupid cliche, "Guns don't kill people." (Duh. People with guns - most obtained legally - kill people.)

It's a diversion. If we truly believe in "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," we have to focus on the fundamental question President Obama asked: Are we doing enough to care for and protect our children?

As for the Second Amendment argument, I wonder how many gundamentalists have read it? It calls for a "well regulated militia" to protect the "security of a free state." What kind of security do we have if we allow easy access to guns when that access leads to the massacre of children?

Let's forget what the founders meant by "a militia." Let's agree that the words "well regulated" are part of the Second Amendment. We should regulate guns the way we regulate driving: mandatory safety and training courses, licensing, a national database (like we do for motor vehicles and even drivers), strict background checks and waiting periods, renewal tests, greater penalties for negligence, etc.

We can begin by demanding Congress debate, hold hearings and, yes, pass the bill Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California will introduce to ban assault weapons. President Clinton signed a similar bill into law in 1994. That it had an expiration date testifies to the weakness of our moral courage. It's time to remove assault weapons from the local Wal-Mart.

We can be upfront about our values and morals. Bushmaster, the company that manufactured the rifle used to massacre the children in Connecticut, has issued a "man card." It doesn't take much imagination to see the innuendo of the rifle's barrel. Really? Manhood masquerades as massacring little children?

We don't have to change overnight. We're not at the stage where we can beat our swords into ploughshares. But we can change enough that "liberty" doesn't mean the freedom to massacre little children.

Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News.

Comments

USTPC 1 year, 3 months ago

Conveniently, as is the norm for those who want the government to outlaw guns, you have left out a key part of the 2nd amendment...."The RIGHT of the PEOPLE to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.

The definition of infringed is "To transgress or exceed the limits of; violate, invalidate". That means that the government cannot limit, violate or invalidate our individual right to bear arms.

This has been held up by the Supreme Court both in 2008 and 2010. 2008, in District Of Columbia vs Heller the Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd amendment protects an individual's right to posess a firearm unconnected to service in the militia and the right to use that firearm for lawful purposes up to and including self defense. 2010, in Mcdonald vs Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd amendment limits state and local governments just like it does the federal government.

Your argument that the 2nd amendment was strictly for militia has been proven wrong in the court of law time and time again and yet you and others like you continue to make that claim. You ask if citizens in favor of gun rights have read the 2nd amendment...my question to you is have you read it? Have you looked at the numerous court cases that confirm the 2nd amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms and that right shall not be infringed? It is apparent by your article that you have not or that you choose to ignore what does not fit into your agenda.

Your argument that there has not been a single case in the 62 mass killings in the last 30 years where a civilian stopped the killing. What you fail to point out and simply ignore is that the reason for that is that the mass killings all took place in GUN FREE zones where a law abiding citizen is not allowed to have a gun. Gun free zones that criminals and mass murderers ignore and actually seek out because they know there will be no resistance to their destruction. Conveniently you fail to mention that.

I do agree with your statement that change needs to happen. The change though needs to be the elimination of gun free zones, posting armed security guards in schools and arming teachers who volunteer to be trained. Do not publicize which teachers are trained. The money to pay for the armed security guards can come from taking the financial aid we send to countries that openly hate us and use if for paying for the armed security in schools.

Just an FYI to those who do not think an armed guard in schools is a good idea....1/3 of public schools already have armed guards, Clinton called for the same thing the NRA is calling for after the Columbine shooting, and Obama's kids school has 11 armed guards. Are his kids more special than anyone else's?

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Nous_Defions 1 year, 3 months ago

Thumbs up USTPC!! Will Ms. Brazile lead the team that attempts the first firearm confiscation? I think not!, she will be in a sheltered enclave surrounded by her cronies.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 3 months ago

No argument can be made that the framers of the first 10 ammendments indeed the Constitution had in mind colonial families owning cannons, mortars or howitzers. Weapons for mass murder have no place in American society outside military use. The CT slaughter is incontrovertible proof.

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USTPC 1 year, 3 months ago

True assault rifles have been banned since the mid 1930's. The rifle confiscated in the Newtown, CT shootings by definition is not an assualt rifle. In addition, a primary purpose of our founders in writing the second amendment is the ability of the citizens to protect themselves against a tyrannical government...similar to what our founding fathers did against Britain. But you and others have this unreasonable belief that our government is different and would never become a dictatorship.

There is some incontrovertible proof that comes from the tragedy of the CT shootings and that is that Gun Free zones do not work and that armed guards and teachers need to be in every school.

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Tonto 1 year, 3 months ago

The framers specifically said militia: armed citizens not an organized Army beholden to the government. The Armed services were created separately. There were distinct differences from the beginning. Local Militia first resisted the British...bands of local citizens trying to hold their own. When the continental army was founded, it was still separate from militia: armed citizens not regular army to join in defense of thier country. The framers retained the term militia so there could be no chance that any governement, state, federal, American or otherwise, could have a death-grip on the common man. They were to be capable of defending themselves and rise up if necessity required it. Saying we have an all volunteer military does not make them a militia as they are directly, legally under orders to the government.
While the early militia did not have cannon (or perhaps their town or community did); they maintained the same personal weapon as the enemy, and advanced as the technology went along right beside the organized governement army. As far as crime: the police don't prevent crime unless they are right there when it happens. The police are too few stretced to thin. They solve crimes, they apprehend villians for the system to punish (we wish), but they don't keep your car from being stolen, or your wallet, watch, wedding ring; your women from being insulted or abused or your right to move freely in this country without fear. I have heard people say that a wallet or car is not worth someone's life...I would agree but (and I para-phrase here) apparently the guy trying to steal them thought it was. Ask the normal residents (not the political transients) of DC, or Chiago or any major city that forbids citizens to be armed how it feels to be the old, or the small, or the weak and live in fear when the sun goes down.

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USTPC 1 year, 3 months ago

"There are people calling for the banning of assault weapons who could not define an "assault weapon" if their life depended on it. Yet the ignorant expect others to take them seriously." - Thomas Sowell

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