The latest thinking: pundits on Americans and gun control

Newtown massacre revives debate about the right to arms

Here is some of what is being said in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday:

Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

“In the harrowing aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut, one thought wells in my mind: Why can’t we regulate guns as seriously as we do cars? The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns.”

Garry Wills, The New York Review of Books

“That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch.”

The Los Angeles Times, Editorial

“President Obama has thus far proven himself unwilling to expend the kind of political capital necessary to move meaningful gun reform into the forefront of the national debate. Hug your children and protect them as best you can; politicians are unlikely to do so.”

Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

“Let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.”

The Observer, Editorial

“For most outside observers the answer to America’s gun problem appears self-evident. It needs to begin with a reinstatement of the ban on ownership of military assault weapons that have no business being in private hands. A proper federal system of regulation, including background checks registration, and limits on the type and number of weapons an individual can own, would bring the US belatedly into line with other civilised countries, as would a determined push back against state legislation allowing the carrying of concealed weapons in public.

“The rate of death from firearm injuries in the US, put very crudely, at more than 30,000 a year exceeds the annual death rate in the present war in Syria. Until the US confronts the reality of its failed policies regarding ownership of firearms it will live in a recurrent nightmare where it is condemned to confront the same horror as it did on Friday at Sandy Hook elementary school.”

Kansas City Star, Editorial

“Weep for the slain schoolchildren and their devastated families. Weep for the town of Newtown, Conn., scene of the latest mass shooting. Weep for America, where these scenes happen again and again.And then, for God’s sake, let us do something about it.”

Ben Adler, The Guardian

“This time, the shock is more extreme, the feeling more visceral and the political pivot – towards the need for greater gun control – faster and more focused. Perhaps it is because so many of the victims were kindergartners, only five years old. Perhaps, finally, it is because Americans can only tolerate so many senseless deaths from gun violence. Or perhaps gun control is just having a moment.”

Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor

“While we don’t have all the facts and our focus must be on the victims, this is yet another senseless and horrific act of violence involving guns. We as a society must unify and once and for all crack down on the guns that have cost the lives of far too many innocent Americans.”

John Nichols, The Nation

“When we seek to understand why we don’t have the discussion – and the action — that we should about violence, the place to begin is with those who seek to preempt debates and to limit the ability of communities, states and the federal government to respond to the cries of horrified and sorrowful Americans for a real response to individual incidents and patterns of violence that break our hearts.”

 David Brooks, New York Times columnist

“I think it would be helpful in the media if we did not publicize these people, especially if they have committed suicide. Don’t put them on the cover of magazines. Don’t put their faces on TV. Don’t release their names. I somehow think that would diminish some of the perverse heroism of them.”

David Remnick, The New Yorker 

“President Obama is a decent man, and he clearly felt the tragedy in Connecticut deeply. That was evident from his brief statement at the White House today. We have grown accustomed to what will happen next. The President will likely visit a funeral or a memorial service and, at greater length, comfort the families of the victims, the community, and the nation. He will be eloquent. He will give voice to the common grief, the common confusion, the common outrage. But then what? A “conversation”? Let there be a conversation. But also let there be decisive action from a President who is determined not only to feel our pain but, calling on the powers of his office, to feel the urge to prevent more suffering. His reading of the Constitution should no longer be constrained by a sense of what the conventional wisdom is in this precinct or that. Let him begin his campaign for a more secure and less violent America in the state of Connecticut.”

Jeff Golberg, The Altantic

“People should have the ability to defend themselves. Mass shootings take many lives in part because no one is firing back at the shooters. The shooters in recent massacres have had many minutes to complete their evil work, while their victims cower under desks or in closets. One response to the tragic reality that we are a gun-saturated country is to understand that law-abiding, well-trained, non-criminal, wholly sane citizens who are screened by the government have a role to play in their own self-defense, and in the defense of others (read The Atlantic article to see how one armed school administrator stopped a mass shooting in Pearl Mississippi). I don’t know anything more than anyone else about the shooting in Connecticut at the moment, but it seems fairly obvious that there was no one at or near the school who could have tried to fight back.”

Allison Benedikt, Slate

 “President Obama: Twenty-seven people are dead, 20 of them children, and you just told the nation that we’re all going to have to ‘extend a hand to those in need. We’ve endured too many of these tragedies,’ you rightly noted, clearly moved by the particular horrendousness of what took place in Connecticut today. And then, holding back your tears, you said this: I react to news like this, ‘not as a president, but as a parent.’”

Jon Margolick, PolicyMic

“If we do nothing else today, we should cry together. We should rage together. We should yell and scream and draw up detailed charts and have arguments and take responsibility for what happens next, because if we can’t then what are we doing here in the first place? And if, in the middle of it all, we talk gun control policy, well, it’s about damn time.”

Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker 

“Do you feel that? That’s your sense of moral outrage dissipating. It may still feel raw and vivid in the wake of Friday’s bloodbath in Connecticut. But if other recent massacres are anything to go by, our collective indignation has a half-life—and it isn’t long. The tender ages of the victims at Sandy Hook made the tragedy feel exceptional, and on television and Twitter, and at kitchen tables around the country, many of us expressed an urgent sense, over the past forty-eight hours, that something should be done. Even President Obama suggested that “meaningful action” is in order, though he didn’t elaborate on what that might entail, and notably absent from his remarks was the single monosyllable that might explain how one disturbed young man could walk into an elementary school and end twenty-six lives in a matter of minutes: ‘gun.'”

Calvin Woodward, The Huffington Post

“After the massacre of children Friday, Obama spoke mainly of the anguish, and the need for action, and not at all about the right to bear arms. By the standards of gun-control politics, that alone was a crack in the status quo.”

Piers Morgan, CNN

“There are nearly 12,000 murders a year from guns in this country. When are you guys going to focus on that, and stop telling me the answer is more guns? It is not the answer! How many more kids have to die, before you guys say, ‘we want less guns, not more?'”

Lexington, the Economist

“Here is the thing. The American gun debate takes place in America, not Britain or Japan. And banning all guns is not about to happen (and good luck collecting all 300m guns currently in circulation, should such a law be passed). It would also not be democratic. I personally dislike guns. I think the private ownership of guns is a tragic mistake. But a majority of Americans disagree with me, some of them very strongly. And at a certain point, when very large majorities disagree with you, a bit of deference is in order.

“So in short I am not sure that tinkering with gun control will stop horrible massacres like today’s. And I am pretty sure that the sort of gun control that would work—banning all guns—is not going to happen. So I have a feeling that even a more courageous debate than has been heard for some time, with Mr Obama proposing gun-control laws that would have been unthinkable in his first term, will not change very much at all. Hence the gloom.”

Michael Williams, the Guardian

“The NRA is right that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. We need to focus on people, through mental health programs, anti-bullying campaigns, poverty reduction and inner-city education, to address our national plague of gun violence. But better gun control laws are also part of the equation. To suggest otherwise, as the NRA does, is disingenuous at best, if not downright amoral.

“We owe this to the kids in Newtown who will never go to high school and never have the luxury of debating that perennial high school debate question about the constitutionality of the second amendment.”

James Fallows, The Atlantic 

“I will henceforth and only talk about “gun safety” as a goal for America, as opposed to “gun control.” I have no abstract interest in “controlling” someone else’s ability to own a gun. I have a very powerful, direct, and legitimate interest in the consequences of others’ gun ownership — namely that we change America’s outlier status as site of most of the world’s mass shootings. No reasonable gun-owner can disagree with steps to make gun use safer and more responsible. This also shifts the discussion to the realm of the incremental, the feasible, and the effective.”

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