My usual rule is to refrain from discussing policy in the interim following a tragic situation. After all, there’s nothing more useless than pontificating in the meantime, while tempers are hot, and no one knows what to do. We all want an easy fix to horrifying situations like the one that played out yesterday in Oregon. We all want to believe there’s one, singular solution that will put an end to senseless violence. There isn’t.
But yesterday, President Obama used the Oregon shooting to make a political point, openly and unabashedly, before the bodies of the dead had cooled, before knowing the facts of the case, and without, apparently, a modicum of respect for the families and community that is suffering losses today. As a nation sought help, leadership, prayer and support; President Obama did little but throw a temper tantrum on national television, calling for solutions in the form of “gun control,” and “action,” without specifiying any concrete legislative agenda, or, even, what he believes the country needs to take action on.
Perhaps the President should have taken a few deep breaths before stepping foot behind the podium. Because even the President’s own policies – the ones he’s outlined time and again – would have had little impact on what happened yesterday. Before judging others for having few solutions to inexplicable actions, perhaps consider what little the President has offered in the midst of this argument, other than harsh words to be repeated by social media acolytes.
According to the NCSL, the last White House missive on the subject included the following: universal background checks (Oregon has them, but they were apparently ineffective), a ban on “military-style assault weapons” (I’m not sure anyone really knows what those are, including the President, but the shooter yesterday had three handguns), additional police officers on the streets (not effective in an isolated mass-shooter incident), training for “active shooter” situations (effectively neutralized by a gun-free zone with an unarmed security guard), urge mental health providers to report active threats and improve “mental health awareness.” In fact, Oregon has nearly every proposed law from the White House on the books, perhaps even at the White House’s insistence since the NCSL provides this kind of model legislataion to Democratic run states, and yet, yesterday still happened.
It’s not to say that some of these things aren’t generally good ideas, it’s to say that they aren’t ideas that directly address the problem at hand or provide an immediate, workable solution, other than, perhaps, allowing the President a moment of public catharsis, a bit of righteous indignation. If he wants to confiscate guns from law-abiding citizens – an immediately “workable” “solution,” I suppose, if there ever was one – he should say it. Put it out there. See what happens. Start that national conversation. It’s what he wants to do anyway; he alluded to Australia’s “solution,” which was exactly that. If that’s what he thinks will solve America’s mass shooter problem, get the ball rolling. Otherwise, there’s no point to these chest-beating displays other than to encourage the complete breakdown of any sort of national dialogue into a series of angry Tweets and emotional Facebook posts.
Okay, now I’m finished with my moment of catharsis. Carry on.