Monday, October 5, 2015

Obama: What to do about gun violence

Steve Benen at MSNBC/Rachel Maddow has a short article on the President's recent press conference in which he addressed the problem of gun violence. Benen quoted from the 4th paragraph below. These paragraphs are from the White House transcript of the press conference. I want to put the quote in context for you so here is the more lengthy passage.

The reason that Congress does not support even the modest gun safety laws that we proposed after Sandy Hook is not because the majority of the American people don’t support it. I mean, normally, politicians are responsive to the views of the electorate. Here you’ve got the majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do. Background checks, other common-sense steps that would maybe save some lives couldn’t even get a full vote. And why is that? It’s because of politics. It’s because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear. And in fairness, it’s not just in the Republican Party -- although the Republican Party is just uniformly opposed to all gun safety laws. And unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem.

For example, you’ll hear people talk about the problem is not guns, it’s mental illness. Well, if you talk to people who study this problem, it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world -- tens of millions of angry young men. Most of them don’t shoot. It doesn’t help us just to identify -- and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters. So we can’t sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this. The only thing we can do is make sure that they can’t have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them.

And if we’re going to do something about that, the politics has to change. The politics has to change. And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side who are absolutists and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom, or communistic -- or a plot by me to takeover and stay in power forever or something. (Laughter.) I mean, there are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there -- some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion.

So we’ve got to change the politics of this. And that requires people to feel -- not just feel deeply -- because I get a lot of letters after this happens -- "do something!" Well, okay, here’s what you need to do. You have to make sure that anybody who you are voting for is on the right side of this issue. And if they’re not, even if they’re great on other stuff, for a couple of election cycles you’ve got to vote against them, and let them know precisely why you’re voting against them. And you just have to, for a while, be a single-issue voter because that’s what is happening on the other side.

And that’s going to take some time. I mean, the NRA has had a good start. They’ve been at this a long time, they’ve perfected what they do. You’ve got to give them credit -- they’re very effective, because they don’t represent the majority of the American people but they know how to stir up fear; they know how to stir up their base; they know how to raise money; they know how to scare politicians; they know how to organize campaigns. And the American people are going to have to match them in their sense of urgency if we’re actually going to stop this.

And that means that we need to vote single issue for a while and fund our votes accordingly. If our candidates do not, for example, believe that gun violence is a public health catastrophe, and vote in Congress or legislatures accordingly, then we boot them the hell out of office.

Look -- what else has worked? Who knows? We might be able to take America back. Perhaps we can also take the NRA back.

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