Thursday Reads: Is It Finally Time for Some Hope and Change?

U.S. President Obama reads "Where the Wild Things Are" alongside first family during White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington

Good Morning!!!

Rachel Maddow is such an optimist. After I listened to her show last night, I began to have real hope for change (pun intended) on the gun control front. Rachel talked about President Obama’s announcements yesterday, and how the knee jerk reaction of the DC pundits was basically, “ho hum, it’s nice talk but there’s no chance for real change.” But the American people agree with Obama on gun safety. If he gets out there and fights for his initiatives, he could accomplish a lot.

Another encouraging note–I can’t recall if it was on Rachel or another MSNBC show–Richard Wolffe said that he saw a look in Obama’s eyes that he’s seen before. Wolfe said it was like Obama’s determination on health care, a sign that he really cares of this and will follow through. I think Joe Biden deserves a lot of credit for this too–as he did in pushing Obama to come out in favor of gay marriage last year.

As we saw with the gay marriage issue, when the President focuses on something it becomes big news. Yesterday there was lots of discussion and it was the main topic on Morning Joe this morning too. Interestingly, after a lot of excited pro-gun-safety talk, Scarborough brought on Jim DeMint to talk about the Heritage Foundation reaction, and DeMint punted. He talked in circles and refused to offer any ideas! The right wingers simply weren’t prepared for this fight. They thought the fear of the NRA would carry the day as always.

Anyway, I feel hopeful for now. Maybe Obama can continue to change the political conversation in his second term. To me the most powerful decision the president made was to enable federal support for research on the causes of gun violence. From Inside Higher Ed:

Obama issued an order to the Department of Health and Human Services to have the CDC as well as the National Institutes of Health study issues related to gun violence, and asked Congress to appropriate $10 million for additional work in the area. Obama said in his public remarks that research is part of the solution to gun violence, and he sharply criticized the past limits on studies.

“While year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it — and Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” Obama said in introducing his new policies. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”

He followed that up immediately with a memo to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, telling her to work with the CDC “and other scientific agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services [to] conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it. The Secretary shall begin by identifying the most pressing research questions with the greatest potential public health impact, and by assessing existing public health interventions being implemented across the nation to prevent gun violence.”

The president’s actions are consistent with several requests from violence scholars in the last month, as Vice President Biden led an administration task force to develop the plan released Wednesday. Dozens of scholars of violence this month — organized by the Crime Lab of the University of Chicago — issued a joint letter to draw attention to the impact of federal policies that have effectively banned federal support for their

This is how the anti-science Republicans think: Avoid facts and data, stifle knowledge, close your eyes and ears and scream if anyone tries to break through the denial. But the American people are with Obama on this. Some people are saying that Congress will never appropriate the money for this research. I’m not so sure. If the Republicans continue their pro-gun and anti-people tantrums, they may find themselves in the minority in both houses of Congress in 2014.

Here’s the NYT writeup of Obama’s announcement on gun safety: Obama to ‘Put Everything I’ve Got’ Into Gun Control.

Surrounded by children who wrote him letters seeking curbs on guns, Mr. Obama committed himself to a high-profile and politically volatile campaign behind proposals assembled by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. that will test the administration’s strength heading into the next four years. The first big push of Mr. Obama’s second term, then, will come on an issue that was not even on his to-do list on Election Day when voters renewed his lease on the presidency.

“I will put everything I’ve got into this,” Mr. Obama said, “and so will Joe.” [....]

“I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it,” Mr. Obama said. “And, by the way, that doesn’t just mean from certain parts of the country. We’re going to need voices in those areas, in those Congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong, to speak up and to say this is important. It can’t just be the usual suspects.”

Meanwhile on the life-dying, death-affirming, ideological side of this fight, the NRA really hurt itself yesterday by going after President Obama’s daughters in an attack ad. From the National Journal: Has the NRA Finally Gone Too Far?

The National Rifle Association has been skirting the lines of decency for years, but the gun-rights group stoops to a new low with a Web ad calling President Obama an “elitist hypocrite.” The ad criticizes Obama for giving his daughters Secret Service protection while expressing skepticism about installing armed guards in schools.

The ad is indisputably misleading, and is arguably a dangerous appeal to the base instincts of gun-rights activists….

The fact is, Obama is not opposed to armed guards in schools. Indeed, many of the nation’s schools already hire security. This is what Obama is skeptical of: the NRA’s position that putting more guns in schools is the only way to prevent mass shootings.

The president wants to ban assault rifles, require background checks, and ban high-capacity ammunition. He does not want to confiscate guns, despite the NRA’s unsubstantiated warnings to the contrary.
There are fair arguments to be had over Obama’s proposals: Redefining the Second Amendment shouldn’t be done without a vigorous debate. But to drag the president’s daughters into the fight, and to question their need for security, suggests that the NRA is slipping further away from the mainstream. Over-the-top tactics discredit the NRA and its cause.

Well it sure looks like we’re going to have that “vigorous debate” now.
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Can We Really Get Sensible Gun Safety Laws?

Obama signs executive orders on gun controlThe President had a presser unveiling potential Gun Safety Laws and Regulation.  Have we finally passed a threshold where we can finally deal with the proliferation of killing machines without hearing the gun fetishists whine about their inability to maintain an arsenal worthy of a military installation that worries police and citizens alike?  Will we get a dialogue and not some kind of right wing hate fest?  Probably, not … but we’re moving towards restricting some of the worst abuses of some people’s idea of the second amendment.

The White House has published the full text of the president’s proposals [pdf] – and a hashtag #nowisthetime to take the message to social media.

There’s a new White House website on preventing gun violence with smart interactive text and video, state of the art stuff.

The feedback from wing nuttia as well as the usual political questions are getting full court press.

At a White House event at noon, Mr. Obama announced plans to introduce legislation by next week that includes a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, expanded background checks for gun purchases and new gun trafficking laws to crack down on the spread of weapons across the country.

He also promised to act without Congressional approval to increase the enforcement of existing gun laws and improve the flow of information among federal agencies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have them.

The announcement was the culmination of a monthlong process that began after the massacre of 20 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. In the wake of the shootings, Mr. Obama pledged action, but it was not immediately clear how far he was willing to go in the face of intense political opposition.

Wednesday’s announcement reflected a decision by the White House to seize on public outrage to challenge the political power of the National Rifle Association and other forces that have successfully fought new gun laws for decades.

The president vowed to fight hard for the new gun laws, saying that the country’s leaders are compelled to act by the tragedies of gun deaths across the country.

“In the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,” he said. “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”

Mr. Obama opened his call for new gun laws by quoting from some of the letters he received from children — several of whom were sitting in the audience at the White House — urging him to take action on gun violence.

“This is our first task as a society,” Mr. Obama said. “Keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.”

There’s some indication that the proposals will be given the slow walk treatment in Congress.

Speaking before Obama, Vice President Biden said “we have a moral obligation” to diminish the prospect that tragedies such as last month’s massacre in an elementary school in Connecticut could happen again.

“I have no illusions about what we’re up against,” Biden said. But he added: “The world has changed, and it’s demanding action.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said his panel would begin examining gun-control measures in two weeks. “In our hearings, we will ensure an open forum for a constructive discussion about how we can better protect our communities from mass shootings, while respecting the fundamental right to bear arms recognized by the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement. “As President Obama has made clear, no single step can end this kind of violence. But the fact that we cannot do everything that could help should not paralyze us from doing anything that can help.”

There are a number of disturbing ads, images, and statements coming from the Gun Fetish crowd including comparisons of the President to Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden.  It’s hard to imagine that the right wing could get any more hateful and racist about these measures given that both Presidents Bush and President Reagan have pretty much proposed or signed similar measures.  The worst is an NRA political ad that uses the President’s daughters as an example of how well giving school kids armed guards works.  Rush Limbaugh was particularly disgusting today. He actually made fun of the children that wrote letters who appeared with the President.  He referred to the children as “human shields”.

We knew this would get ugly because the fringe right is ugly.  I can only imagine this will get worse as we try to move towards sensible gun safety laws like the rest of the civilized world.  The NRA has announced it’s going to mount “the fight of the century”. 

LaPierre accused Vice President Biden of lying when he said there would be an open discussion before the administration developed its plan to restrict access to certain weapons and clips.

“The NRA sat in on a White House meeting that was sold to the public as an ‘open discussion’ about how to improve school safety.” LaPierre wrote. “But that was a dirty lie. They didn’t listen to gun owners’ concerns…they didn’t consider any real solutions on how we can keep our kids safe. Instead Barack Obama, Joe Biden and their gun ban allies in Congress only want to BLAME you, VILIFY you, BULLY you, and STRIP you of your Second Amendment freedoms.”

LaPierre warned his members about Obama’s plan, saying: “Right now, they’re steamrolling ahead with legislation that would ban your guns, register your ammunition purchases and even force you to register the firearms you already own with Obama’s anti-gun bureaucrats.”
No one has yet told me why people need military style weapons in their homes or lives.  It’s ridiculous. It’s like children being told they can’t have a bb gun because they’ll shoot their eye out–in this case they’re likely to kill themselves or have some one else killed by accident–and that just makes them want the dangerous toys even more.  Look!  It’s coming right at us!!!!