Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. calls out Republicans for their shameless pandering to the gun industry and commends President Obama for “politicizing” the latest mass shootings:
President Obama spoke some of the most important words of his tenure last week in response to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. “This is something we should politicize,” the president said. “It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.”
This is something we should politicize. His statement was remarkable for violating the etiquette as to what a leader should say after another slaughter by a deranged gunman and the conventional wisdom about how politicians have to pretend that they are not engaged in politics.
But Obama was forcing us to face reality. It’s politics that has rendered our nation powerless in the face of butchery. There have been at least 142 school shootings since the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, and Congress has done nothing. It’s politics, as Obama said, that makes the U.S. “the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months,” and politics that leads our learned legislators to pass laws barring the government from “even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.”
…”Politicize” is the right word for another reason: We will not act until politicians start losing elections for opposing even the most modest gun safety measure. We will not act unless political parties that block action lose their majorities. Yes, I am talking about a Republican Party that has completely aligned itself with the interests of gun manufacturers and gun fanatics.
Dionne cites “the conclusion of a study released in August by National Journal: “The states that impose the most restrictions on gun users also have the lowest rates of gun-related deaths, while states with fewer regulations typically have a much higher death rate from guns.” Dionne adds, “State laws could be even more effective if they were matched by federal laws that made it harder for guns to get into the wrong hands.”
Dionne notes the example of Australia’s former conservative Prime Minister John Howard, who provided courageous leadership for sensible gun control measures, including a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons and a major gun buy-back project, after a massacre of 35 Australians in Tasmania. Dionne concludes with a question that demands an honest answer: “Is a dangerous and harebrained absolutism about weaponry really the issue on which American conservatives want to practice exceptionalism?