Saturday, December 15, 2012

Yesterday was not a day for pragmatism

One of the reasons I had to take leave of my twitter timeline yesterday is that I recognized that following the shooting in Newtown, people needed to vent their emotions. At a time like that, I tend to get in touch with my grief. Many other people are more comfortable with their anger. But either way, it is definitely not the time to have pragmatic discussions about the specific challenges that await us in addressing the issues that led to this tragedy. In other words, its not time to think...its time to feel.

And so I wonder if we're ready for the pragmatism today. Let's give it a try.

For most of us, one of the critical issues that needs to be addressed is to enact sensible gun laws that will make these kinds of events less likely. The question that raises for me is "what gun laws?" Of course we need to work to get the assault rifle ban reinstated. According to every news account I've read, the shooter did have an assault rifle - but it was found in his car. He didn't use it in these shootings. And so we have to go beyond that.

We also know that a background check and/or license should be necessary to own a gun. But the guns used yesterday belonged to the shooter's mother and were purchased legally. I'm not sure that a background check and/or licensing process for her would have made a difference. And so we need to go beyond that.

The two guns that were used yesterday at the school were handguns - apparently with semi-automatic capacity. Apparently it was this feature that allowed him to get off what witnesses describe as over 100 shots. Since its probably not likely that we'd get a ban on handguns, perhaps the other step would be to outlaw those with semi-automatic capacity.

So I'd suggest that the three things we need to advocate for are:
  1. A ban on assault rifles
  2. A background check for every gun purchase
  3. A ban on semi-automatic handguns 
Those with more knowledge of guns might want to weigh in if I'm showing my ignorance here.

But then for many of us, the need to address this issue does not begin and end with what happened in Newtown yesterday. We know that as a black man who calls Chicago home - its also not enough for President Obama. His most comprehensive statement about all this since he's been President came in an address to the Urban League shortly after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Take a look at what he said that day by listening to his remarks from 24:00 to 32:00 in this video.

One of the things you'll hear the President talk about is a comprehensive strategy for violence prevention and the initiatives his administration is taking - without the need for congressional approval. He's talking about things like the collaboration between the Departments of Education and Justice to form the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, which has led to things like this.

But of course he didn't let us as individuals off the hook either. As I wrote about at the time, he told us that we each have a role to play as well.
So I’m going to continue to work with members of both parties, and with religious groups and with civic organizations, to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction -- not just of gun violence, but violence at every level, on every step, looking at everything we can do to reduce violence and keep our children safe -– from improving mental health services for troubled youth -- to instituting more effective community policing strategies. We should leave no stone unturned, and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe.

And as we do so, as we convene these conversations, let’s be clear: Even as we debate government’s role, we have to understand that when a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government alone can't fill. It’s up to us, as parents and as neighbors and as teachers and as mentors, to make sure our young people don’t have that void inside them.

It’s up to us to spend more time with them, to pay more attention to them, to show them more love so that they learn to love themselves -- so that they learn to love one another, so that they grow up knowing what it is to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes and to view the world through somebody else’s eyes. It’s up to us to provide the path toward a life worth living; toward a future that holds greater possibility than taking offense because somebody stepped on your sneakers.

That’s the difference that we can make in our children’s lives and in the lives of our communities. That’s the legacy we must leave for the next generation.
So there you have it - my homage to the pragmatism of actually getting something done for those who are interested in moving forward.


  1. Semi-automatic handguns are pretty much the normal for handguns. Even revolvers might fall under that category. We can, however, start talking about capacity. There's no real need for an extended clip in any civilian use.

  2. If we focused on the causes & effects of violence & fostering public safetey we could begin to address how guns fit into this narrative...

    i think that the problem is that we deal with guns in the abstract/that the discussion has to be about reducing violence...

    we are all horrified at the loss of 20 children in CT...but around the country there are children who are killed by guns every day/

    and when folks say that things like this (mass murder) don't happen in places like this CT community that means that there are communities where it is expected to happen/

    i agree with PBO .....we need to have a comprehesive focus on how to reduce violence and include guns in that discussion..

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Sorry, deleted by mistake.

    I'm a regular reader, but not a commenter. But today I feel compelled to say something about the cocktail served to Adam Lanza: Access to 3 guns in his mother's house (who needs 3 f*kg guns in their house? If you're that scared, move to a smaller house.), the desolation of Asperger's Syndrome and an immersion in a world of violent video games. People always forget about the video games. I'll bet most parents don't even know what video games their kids have and would be stunned at the reality. My guess is Adam Lanza saw himself in a video game. As filled with fury as I am that he took TEN MINUTES to wipe out the lives of those children just starting theirs, I saw this picture of him as a kid, not much older than the ones he slaughtered. Heart-wrenching. The link to the picture and story is,0,2311968.story Thank you for letting me vent.


Sure, Trump is unfit for office. But his agenda would also be a monumental disaster!

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