Few places such as Aurora and Newtown, Conn., can appreciate President Barack Obama’s emotional response Tuesday to the tragedy of gun violence and the need to do something as a society to keep others from suffering our unenviable fate.
If someone were able to have stopped Aurora theater shooter James Holmes from amassing a military-style arsenal in 2012 and unleashing it inside the Century 16 Theater in 2012, what might we have done to make that possible?
Because of the loathsome politics gripping Washington, we may never know.
Immediately during and after Obama’s emotional speech at the White House, where he outlined administrative changes he wants to make to combat rampant gun violence, critics dog-piled on Obama’s modest and unsurprising plan.
It seemed almost surreal that in the very place that serves as a top argument for doing something to stop gun violence and mass shootings, Colorado elected representatives like Sen. Cory Gardner, and even Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman, yielded to Washington’s status quo of shrill partisan politics. Both were quick in attacking Obama’s heartfelt albeit inadequate attempt to at least do something. Congress has done nothing but capitulate to political extortion exerted expertly by the National Rifle Association and others, thwarting the clear and unequivocal will of Americans.
Between 80 percent and 90 percent of Americans, including Republicans, back universal background checks for gun sales, which is exactly what Obama is trying to do after Congress has adamantly refused. Almost every one of Coffman’s and Gardner’s constituents want everyone who buys a gun to undergo a background check.
Instead, these two lawmakers jumped on the GOP jingoism bandwagon, saying that Obama “disrespects” the U.S. Constitution.
“This President has just demonstrated, once again, that he has no respect for representative government nor for the limitations that our Constitution places on the powers of his office,” Coffman said.
Gardner said Obama doesn’t respect the right of Americans to to own guns.
These arguments, like so many in the past, are meant to divert attention from discussion and action on what will effectively reduce gun violence, and how we can get there.
Disrespectful? No. Desperate? Yes. Mistaken? Maybe. The president’s ability to maneuver these changes is limited, but his argument has plenty of history and merit behind it. It’s an issue for the courts, and the partisan rhetoric fired off by Republicans spatters everyone in Aurora, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Arapahoe High School, and the site of every wretched place that gun violence continues to erupt.
Parents of children slaughtered in Newtown and Aurora don’t disrespect America, the government or even Congress. They just want something done so other parents don’t have go through what they have. Obama’s plan is hardly the answer to the crisis, but it offers a new chance to find one.
When Colorado passed similar legislation after the Aurora theater shooting, we expressed staunch support for the common sense plan, and grave reservations about how much of an impact it would have.
Similarly, we doubt Obama’s impassioned gesture will directly have any great impact on America’s epidemic of gun violence. Congress, under the thumb of gun manufacturers and the NRA, won’t even allow the government to study the problem to better pose possible solutions. And there are numerous ways forward.
If it were clear that buying large amounts of ammunition or military-grade weapons, or requiring their registration and license, would have drawn authorities to Holmes and stopped him, would you sanction such policy? It would be hard not to.
The notion that there can be no regulation of the Second Amendment is not only laughably erroneous, it’s repugnant and spurious. Like all rights, these can and must be tempered with common sense and reality. Widespread and easily acquired military weaponry is a disaster in the making, a disaster we’ve lived right here in Aurora. Americans arguably have a right to own and use guns, but that right shouldn’t be unfettered and isn’t.
Aurora, Colorado and America have had enough of the partisan political circus that has prevented the country from addressing the crisis of gun violence. While Washington plays at petty political sniping, the country is dying for real answers.