Obama has nothing to lose from a gun lobby fight
For hours, I’ve been arguing with my husband about how to start this column.
I want to begin as a mum, with an emotional response to America’s worst school shooting – to write about how sad and angry I feel that 20 little kids have been gunned down.
I want to express my sorrow for the families in Connecticut who will never again experience the joy of Christmas without grieving for a lost child – who are right now planning funerals instead of wrapping presents.
My husband, who has American relatives, is rather less emotional.
He says it’s an American horror movie we’ve seen too many times before, and it always ends the same way: hand-wringing for a week, then business as usual.
He says the Republicans refuse to restrict handguns and semi-autos, so rogue nut-jobs remain free to kill large numbers of people quickly and efficiently.
Which just makes me more emotional – thinking how blessed I am that my children live in Adelaide, in our beautiful bubble of moderate highs and lows.
I’ve never been John Howard’s biggest fan, yet today I think how lucky we are for the political courage he showed in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, driving home national gun control laws that made Australia a safer place.
It’s unfathomable that American mums and dads aren’t marching in their millions right now to put an end to the insanity.
A child’s right to return alive from school must surely hold greater constitutional weight than a person’s right to bear arms. (The constitution is not bullet-proof – it once enshrined prohibition.)
But I have to say, this time I think there will be change. Already Newtown seems different.
This is an almost unimaginable end to a grim year marked by 16 mass shootings carried out against the softest of targets in America’s churches, movie theatres and shopping malls.
And now it’s primary school kids between five and 10.
The innocent just got more innocent. The gun lobby just got more indefensible.
“Twenty young children, at the age where losing a tooth should be the limits of their trauma, were shot to death,” wrote a columnist for USA Today. “And the plaintive cry of child survivors, ‘I want to go home,’ could have been the plea of a nation.”
On social media and online news outlets across the US, the uprising has begun.
“I don’t think I want to live here anymore,” one reader posted on the New York Times. “Too many people in this country love their guns more than they love other people’s children. Instead of tighter gun laws, we get lunatics defending lunatic’s right to tote lethal weapons.”
And another: “When a lobbyist group like the NRA ([National Rifle Association] has the ability to effectively neuter politicians who might fight for any resemblance of sensible gun control laws then it is clear that Americans have lost control of the Republic to special interest.
“I seriously doubt any meaningful change will occur until millions of citizens march on the capital to demand their country back.”
(The lead post on the NRA official blog in the hours after the massacre, by the way, made no mention of the Connecticut bloodbath, but “Friends of NRA can win a Golden Moose award.”)
Sitting above all this anger is the raw response of the nation’s President, Barack Obama.
“Our hearts are broken today,” he said, in an unusually emotional address.
Broken – and perhaps emboldened.
Obama is a Democratic leader at the beginning of his final four-year term. He has nothing to lose in a fight with the gun lobby.
“As a country, we have been through this too many times… and we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
If American parents – from Barack Obama down – don’t fight for change now, they never will.
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