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Eileen McNamara: We value the president’s heartfelt tears for those slaughtered in Newtown. But his compassion will do nothing to stop the next massacre that is surely coming if we continue to skirt serious gun control in this country. In this photo, President Obama pauses as he speaks to the press, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

This nation needs President Barack Obama’s leadership more than it needs his empathy. His comforter-in-chief role is less and less consoling as the body count soars.

Only a commander-in-chief can mount a crusade to ban the assault weapons and powerful ammunition clips that this year alone have mowed down a theatre full of moviegoers in Colorado, a temple full of Sikh worshippers in Wisconsin and, now, a classroom full of elementary school children in Connecticut.

We value the president’s heartfelt tears for the 20 children and seven adults slaughtered in Newtown. We share them. But a flag flying at half-staff above the White House will do nothing to stop the next massacre, the one that is surely coming if Washington continues to skirt the necessity of serious gun control in this country.

Nothing the president says, no matter how tearfully, will return a dead little boy or girl to their parents’ arms in that devastated Fairfield County town.

There will be yet another debate in full in the weeks ahead about the scope of the Second Amendment and the scourge of mental illness but Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, was dead wrong to say that now is not the time to discuss policy changes. Now is exactly the time. Nothing the president says, no matter how tearfully, will return a dead little boy or girl to their parents’ arms in that devastated Fairfield County town. What he demands from Congress, forcefully, could keep another child, in another setting out of a semiautomatic bullet’s path.

No one expects a total ban on guns in a country where at least 250 million are in circulation, where a sports broadcaster is shamed into apologizing for even suggesting that the easy availability of guns might have contributed to the murder-suicide earlier this month when Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their 3-month-old daughter, and then turned the gun on himself.

But, if we are not yet mature enough to talk about comprehensive gun control, surely we are sane enough to agree to take battlefield-style, semiautomatic weapons off the streets of the United States.

In this photo Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.  (Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee, AP)

In this photo Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee, AP)

For four years and one re-election campaign, Obama bobbed and weaved on the need to reinstate the assault weapons ban that Congress cowardly let expire in 2004, an initiative he has said repeatedly that he supports but that he has just as consistently ducked for fear of the wrath of the National Rifle Association.

Time’s up, Mr. President. There is a far worse backlash to be felt than that orchestrated by the American gun lobby. The American people have had enough of the carnage.

In the days ahead, we will bear witness to a parade of heart-wrenching funerals. Tiny, bullet-riddled bodies will be lowered into the frozen ground in impossibly small caskets. Their mothers will weep at their biers. Their fathers will falter at their gravesites. In the peculiar iconography of public grieving, Teddy bears and helium balloons and votive candles will sprout at the entrance to the Sandy Hook School.

I saw it in Littleton, Colorado in 1999 when teenagers smothered one slain classmate’s car in floral tributes and turned another’s white coffin into a makeshift yearbook, signing their names in primary colors with Magic Markers.

I saw it in 1996 in Dunblane, Scotland, a medieval town even smaller than Newtown, where a crazed gunman slaughtered 16 kindergarteners and their teacher as they gathered for daily exercise in the school gymnasium. Great Britain immediately tightened its already tough gun laws.

“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” Obama said in the immediate aftermath of the Connecticut massacre. Then wipe your tears, Mr. President, and do what you were elected to do. Lead.

Related:

Tags: Barack Obama, Family, Guns, Law, Newtown, Security

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • TJtruthandjustice

    The faux outrage expressed by the gun lobby and parroted by Jay Carney that “this isn’t the time” to talk about gun control is ridiculous. Now is exactly the right time. Obama should bring an assault weapons ban up for a vote on Capitol Hill as soon as possible. Let the political whores in Congress who bow to the NRA twist and wiggle in the public spotlight for all Americans to witness.

    • X-Ray

      What’s an “Assault Weapon”?

      • massappeal

        Definitions vary, but the now-expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban legislation defined specifically prohibited 19 guns, all of which were semi-automatic firearms, meaning they can eject shell casings and chamber the next round without additional human action, but only one round is fired per pull of the trigger. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assault_weapon

        • X-Ray

          So they are not the fully automatic weapons used by the military, the first choice of criminals, nor the kind of weapons readily available at gun shows, as is commonly described in the media and by gun-grabbing politicians.

          • massappeal

            No, they’re the currently widely available semi-automatic weapons similar to the one used by the shooter in Newtown.

          • Franklin Pierce

            Also similar to the firearms the cops had, who did nothing to stop the carnage.

  • 1monkey1

    …or you could see that “gun free zones” is code for easy targets.

    • massappeal

      But then you’d have to be willfully unaware that the killer’s first victim was his well-armed mother.

  • guest

    I am a registered voter and a parent of two elementary school children, and I have a relative who was murdered in Sept 2011 with a gun. Gun violence has become an epidemic and it is threatening the fabric of our society. As a voter, my top priority is now the issue of gun control.

    • Really

      My condolences for your loose, but simply banning guns will not fix anything, if one wishes to do harm he/she will find a way. Not to mention that these incidents as sad as they are are very small, we have at least half the population that owns guns and out of that we have what 15 people who go out and commit such tragedies , that’s not even half a percent. So calling it an epidemic is wrong and misleading. Case and point how about that shooting that occurred in New Zealand several years ago, they have much stricter gun laws then we in the U.S. do and yet he acquired a semi-auto gun and kill many people. Again if a person wishes to do harm he/she will find a way of doing so. People go bat shit crazy it’s part of life, as sad and dark as that statement is. It is the unfortunate truth

      • guest

        I am sick of hearing this argument. Yes, tragedies will happen but not every other week. WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Does it have to be one of your loved ones who dies???????? Scotland woke up in the 1990′s, it is time for us to wake up and do what is right now. My heart weeps for our country and the world.

      • Lclb

        The gun laws in Australia and New Zealand changed immediately following the incident you are referring to, and since then, NO massacres with semi-automatic weapons.

    • X-Ray

      Maybe we should ban the private use of cars too, since some use cars and drive while drunk and cause dealths and damage.

      • KOVAINANBAN

        How can you have a reasonable conversation with people like this?

        • anonymous

          You can’t.

        • X-Ray

          Stretch your mind, you can do it. Be logical. After all, cars cause 100 deaths every day in the U.S. on average.

          • massappeal

            Well, actually, we have, as a society, increasingly taken drunk driving as a serious public health issue and as a result, deaths are down by tens of thousands/year since, say, the 1970s.

            So, it sounds like you’re making an argument for stricter gun safety laws and stricter enforcement of those laws. Yes?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000887200085 Jennifer Sloan

            Yes, cars kill people… but they are intended for another purpose, so 99% of those deaths can be considered accidents. Assault rifles and glocks are intended to severely hurt or kill people… and it seems they are doing their job. Cars and guns are as comparable as cancer and suicide.

          • X-Ray

            Cars don’t kill people; it’s the people who drive the cars that are responsible. Without the drivers, the cars just sit there, just like guns. Put the blame where it belongs, on the individual person. And guns do serve a purpose, they are a tool for me to defend myself against those who would assault me.

          • KOVAINANBAN

            So you advocate gun owners to get insurance just like car owners and register your guns and pay excercise tax and do yearly inspection and get an ID?

        • X-Ray

          Sorry to confuse you with logical analogue argument. Most anti-gun people espouse uninformed knee-jerk reactions unencumbered by the thought process.

      • KOVAINANBAN

        May be should converse with people from your own alternate universe!

        • X-Ray

          I guess you don’t appreciate an analogy or a parable for getting an idea through when people don’t understand. It was a teachable moment, but wasted.

  • Guest

    According to this article this person wants Obama to immediately institute stricter gun control, even make guns illegal. Let’s say he does make guns illegal that will fix the issue; just how no one in a dry county ever drinks alcohol or people use illegal substances like Heroine.

  • misty

    I dream the time for citizens to gather by the thousands and march against assault weapons. Lets march in washington and demonstrate in numbers to show that the citizens of this wonderful nation have had enough of the violent murder rampages being carried out with guns. Let’s march to show that the citizens of this wonderful nation want to stop the senseless and horrific murders of children and innocent students, shoppers and workers. Let us set the day for Jan 21 2013. Our leaders can be more powerful knowing they have followers. Nothing changes without action to show our elected officials we have simply had enough of the violence.

    • JAIBEEZ

      If this nation is so wonderful we wouldn’t have a culture that creates such prevalence of violence that we are not only immune to it (until it happens in suburbia) , but actually promote violence and intolerance.

      • misty

        The NRA is a very strong and powerful organization with a lot of money. Yes this country has issues but we have the freedom to express our viewpoints. There is way more good than bad. This country does not hold people here against their will and allows people to leave at any time should they find a perfect ideal country to live. You are free to leave. If you think it is so bad, I dont know why you’re still here. This is a wonderful nation, not a perfect nation.

  • Really

    wait so your telling me if we ban guns that all of a sudden the mass shootings will stop, really do you think that is going to happen then you must not realize that there is a black market.

    • ThirdWayForward

      It takes much more effort to buy a gun on a black market than ordering one from a catalog or walking into a local store, and the weapons cost more if they are illegal. This is why dangerous drugs are illegal, to limit their availability. The cost of buying a firearm itself is a deterrent, especially for juveniles and mentally-ill.

      In a saner world, every gun owner would be required to pass a mental status exam.

    • dust truck

      How do you think the guns end up on the black market? How can you explain how a 3-yr-old managed to shoot himself in the head last week with a legally purchased firearm? Or the Alabama teenager who shot himself in the head in a “prank gone wrong” None of these tragedies would have happened if the only place to get guns was the black market.

    • massappeal

      No, more just saying that it’s reasonable, based on the evidence, to conclude that there will be fewer mass executions if/when assault weapons are outlawed.

  • mob mentality

    Gun control should be made stricter, but there should also be mental health reform and more awareness. These departments shouldn’t be getting slashed; the amount of people with a mental condition (minor or otherwise) in America is staggering and people need to know about it and anything they can do to help. Sure, most of the people that turn out to be sociopaths never get help, but who’s to say that if we start investing in learning early signs it won’t help stop the next shooting?

  • Stand up America

    How may more innocent lives need be destroyed
    before you understand that there are lots of nut jobs with a grudge
    against society, but when you provide access to these types of weapons you
    empower them to carry out their despicable acts. Wake-up America, its time to
    take a stand!

    • X-Ray

      Yeah, let’s get rid of the nut jobs. Then we’ll be safe.

  • Eva

    Yes, most likely tragedies will surely continue to occur. However, slowly…slowly they will stop. Please.., enforce stricter gun controls.

  • Richard

    Thanks for your reference to Dunblane. We in the UK cannot comprehend why a so called “civilised country” like the US can continue to procrastinate about this

  • somer

    A change has begun. We are no longer afraid to say that guns DO kill people and they must be removed from this society. It is We the People that want this, not the government.

  • KOVAINANBAN

    Nothing is going to happen in reducing the gun violence or handling the fiscal crisis as long as republican party let itself held hostage by NRA, Grover Norquist and the Tea Party. So don’t bother asking the president.

    • melanie

      How to add to the discussion moron.

      • KOVAINANBAN

        That is pretty enlightening. How long did it take to come up with that?

  • Reed Loerner

    I think the call must go out to John Boehner and Mitch McConnel also. If they refuse to propose something useful, there may be no motion on the topic

  • MICHELE P. JOHNSON, MD

    One death, in an old person or young person is one too many. We have to make this stop. Someone said that all that is necessary for evil to continue is for one good man to stand by and do nothing. You can substitute gun violence for evil. I always hear that there is a fear of resistance by the National Rifle Association, but aren’t there more of us than them? Are we really a nation that believes a death caused by a gun is just collateral damage? Its time we held all elected official’s feet to the fire. It’s time they did our bidding. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

  • Seaforth

    We can’t leave it up to politicians, even good hearted ones such as Obama, to lead on this issue. The NRA has shut down this approach for the moment. Citizens must start a crusade to amend the Constitution to ban or strictly limit the use of firearms. If there is a strong enough push from outraged citizens, then eventually the politics will change.

    • X-Ray

      Every jurisdiction has a prohibition on murder. That didn’t stop this perp from killing his mother, stealing her firearms and (illegally) arming himself and killing those in the school. So let’s pass some more laws.

  • ThirdWayForward

    Murder can be committed by any individual, but it takes the complicity of many people to allow weapons of mass murder into the hands of a deranged, angry individual.

    Blame for making high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons freely available to miscreants and mentally ill people needs to be laid squarely where it belongs, on The National Rifle Association, The Republican Party, Fox News Network, their financial supporters, and the purveyors of these weapons.

    From the newspaper and radio reporting a casual observer would never know that these organizations and individuals have for decades blocked any kind of meaningful restrictions on gun access.

    We also need to look at our ourselves, at a popular culture that glorifies gun violence. Violent movies and TV shows do not cause most of us to go out and commit crimes, but they can and do excite the dark imaginations of weak-minded and angry individuals.

    • longmountain

      And that pop culture that you speak of should be laid squarely where it belongs: On the Left ……. you hypocrite!

      • massappeal

        Really? I did not know that John Wayne was a socialist….

  • Isobel Clinton

    I don’t understand Ms. McNamara’s low expectations here, or those of some of the comments below. The gunman in Newtown (like the shooters in most US murders) used handguns: murder weapons, guns not made for soldiers or hunters, but for people who want to kill other people at close range. McNamara mentions the comparable killings 16 years ago in Scotland, but does not mention that Britain immediately banned the kind of guns used Friday, without exception. Wikipedia: “The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides
    in the world with 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a
    firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009 compared to the United States’
    3.0.” We are considered a frighteningly violent country by people all over the world–many people I talk to in Europe (where I live on and off) say they are too frightened even to visit the US. It seems to me we could, in our sudden access to outrage and horror (as if our continuous killing of children in Pakistan were nothing), demand the kind of law that the world’s civilized countries take for granted. 74% of the members of the NRA want that too!

  • WorriedDad

    Well said, Eileen…

    Friends and neighbors, it is time to do something about this. Write to your
    congressperson and senator, tell them to either grow a pair or strap on a set,
    as appropriate, tell the NRA to stuff it, and pass Federal gun control
    legislation with the following provisions:

    1) Reinstate the national assault weapons ban.
    2) Manufacturer-to-scrapyard gun ownership registry, just like automobile registration.
    3) Background checks and waiting periods for all weapons purchases, period. You can’t buy a house with bad credit, you shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun with bad brains.
    4) Make gun manufacturers financially liable for misuse of their products, just like the tobacco industry was held accountable. It is the only way to get their attention.

    In the meantime, hug your children a little more tightly tonight, and say a prayer
    for the torn-apart families who can’t.

    • fedtech

      I am all for this idea but I fail to see how we ( the majority of the US pop.) can fight against gun lobyists and the very rich to get this stuff in place.

      • Franklin Pierce

        Why do you liberals always dredge up the gun lobby? People are buying guns to protect themselves and their families. We no long have the rule of law in this country, you all want a ban by executive fiat, just like Hitler, Mao, or Stalin.

        • massappeal

          Thanks for clarifying your view that the United States today is a society similar to Nazi Germany, Maoist China or the Stalinist Soviet Union.

    • longmountain

      Make sure you call for a ban on knives and other weapons when the time comes.
      And – make sure you are ready to be made financially responsible if you take my personal protection away and I am assaulted.
      God help you if you should ever have your home invaded.

  • Chuck Arning – Lunenburg, MA

    I sit here at my desk in shock. Having talked with my son in NC & the Grand-boys, I sent a long-distanced hug to all. But as I sit here, I am not powerless. The fact that for some reason we allow high powered, military assault-type weapons with mega clips of military style bullets to be sold at will makes no sense in a civilized society, which I think we consider ourselves to be. We allow bullets that can penetrate police vests because of our distorted view that the 2nd Amendment allows us to carry military style weapons. The fact is that the 2nd Amendment allows us to carry flintlock muskets, not AK-47 style military hardware. It is time we all stood up and put an end to our violent gun culture. We need the courage to say No to the NRA and now is the time to begin a strong political movement to end the sale, distribution, ownership and use of such weapons.
    Chuck Arning

    • X-Ray

      The so-called high-powered military assault weapons is a myth by the uninformed. The Bushmaster rifle fires some or the smallest and least powerful round available, the .22 diameter.

      • massappeal

        So here’s one of the problems (or so it seems to me) with the Bushmaster rifle: it’s not much of a hunting rifle…unless you’re hunting humans (or smaller varmints).

        • X-Ray

          So why does a firearm have to be suitable only for hunting to be legal?

          • massappeal

            Thanks for the question. Clearly, under U.S. law, it doesn’t. However, it seems to me there’s a decent case to be made that semi-assault style weapons with high capacity magazines (like the Bushmaster) are designed primarily (if not solely) for the killing of large numbers of humans.

            Outlawing such devices, while protecting the rights of hunters, and of individuals seeking to defend themselves against attackers/intruders, seems to me both reasonable, achievable and constitutional.

  • Riverwaif

    We are no longer (if we ever were) a “civilized society ” We are amalgam of greed, stupid and short-sighted arrogance, and selfish self-serving “associations” that, yes, are known as the NRA, but also the Democratic and Republican parties. This is a tragedy…beyond words (though we all find words to apply to it.) We, bluntly, are not a culture that nurtures one another or care for anything beyond our own narrow self-defined world. So, “others” are just that…”others” that are meaningless, not worthy of living, an O. K. target for my own rage, dementia, whatever. We are not a “civilized” society. We are a jungle.

    • X-Ray

      “Associations” are almost by definition draw together by like-minded attitudes. So the NRA supports the rights of gun owners. Not insidious, illegal, or immoral.

  • Momsrising Ruthie

    Thank you, Ellen! Enough is enough!! How many innocent people need to die in this country before our policy makers actually do something?! Are they so far in the pocket of the NRA that they will continue to do nothing?! As Mother Jones said, “We must pray for the dead, but fight like Hell for the living!”

  • jeri

    McNamara, what about media like yourself who have supplied the fame for people like this and in part have inspired. That is why these incidents feed off one another, as seen in recent weeks. Media demands that we engage in “soul-searching” after this. Well, so should themselves.

  • longmountain

    Sorry… I have to disagree. If you cannot GUARANTEE that everyone will not have guns, then the only other way to level the paying field is for every citizen to learn how to use a gun safely to protect theirs as well as their neighbor’s lives.
    The gun did not shoot itself – it took a sick human being behind the trigger. Where is the outrage calling for a review of our mental health system, our parenting system, allowing childrebn to view violent imagery coming from Hollywood, not allowing children to know what God is….. oh yes, I forgot – THOSE IDEAS DO NOT FIT THE LIBERAL AGENDA.
    Perhaps Liberalism itself – as a whole – is the root cause of dysfunction in our society.

    • massappeal

      If liberalism is “the root cause of dysfunction in our society”, then how come all those liberal/socialist countries in Europe have lower gun violence rates than we do?

      Also, how long (in your view) does it take for an average citizen to learn how to use a gun safely?

      • X-Ray

        Because they have a more homogenous society, with a uniform moral attitude and more mutual support and with less independent individual-based attitude.

        • massappeal

          Thanks for the reply. I’m not sure I agree, but it’s a theory.

          • Franklin Pierce

            Maybe you should go watch CSS at the range, that should scare the crap out of you

  • longmountain

    Before you all go off on your “knee-jerk”, emotional gun ban “blame the NRA” rants, consider this:
    The last several mass murders in the US took place in posted GUN FREE ZONES.
    Think about that……. yes, let’s make the entire country a GUN FREE ZONE. And then only the bad guys will have guns and will have a field day. Think things are bad now? Think again.

    • massappeal

      Just curious: should concealed or open carry laws cover public schools? And if so, what (if any) minimum age would you support for carrying handguns in schools?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000887200085 Jennifer Sloan

      I see no reason that we can’t at least start by making it harder for ppl with mental illness to get their hands on assault weapons.

      • X-Ray

        Make it impossible for people with mental illness to get their hands on any weapon.

  • Misty

    The NRA is a very strong and powerful organization with a lot of money. Yes this country has issues but we have the freedom to express our viewpoints. There is way more good than bad. This country does not hold people here against their will and allows people to leave at any time should they find a perfect ideal country to live. You are free to leave. If you think it is so bad, I dont know why you’re still here. This is a wonderful nation, not a perfect nation.

  • X-Ray

    Obama appoints Biden, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, to lead his effort
    to control violence. We can see where this is headed and how much logic,
    evidence, and rational discusalready sion will be included.

  • Gary Mason

    Mr. President it is time for you to Step down, and stop using tax payers money

    for all your Vacations. You need to go to work. . I do not like liers. What if anything have you done for the last for years?

    • massappeal

      Just for the record, President Obama has spent far fewer days/year on vacation than did his immediate predecessor.

  • RuleOfLaw

    I’ve read all the comments here, not one mention of the drone strikes murdering innocent men, women and children every day, strikes carried out by your government. Not a word about Hollywood, or the leftist bankers and globalists.
    No mention of the rule of law, or for the process required to amend the Constitution, all just knee jerk reactions to ban guns, as if they had a soul of their own. Violence is fostered by a government that believes it is above the law, and you are all willing useful idiots to your own enslavement.

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