Momentum is building in Washington for an effort next year to pass some kind of gun control legislation while Senator Joe Lieberman called for a national commission to examine the issue of mass killings in America.
The idea was endorsed by Senator Dick Durbin who said,”We need people, just ordinary Americans, to come together, and speak out, and to sit down and calmly reflect on how far we go.”
“How far we go” is, indeed, the issue. To Democrats the issue now isn’t whether there should be new gun control but what shape it will take.
The time for “saying that we can’t talk about the policy implications of tragedies like this is over,” said Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who won a Senate seat in the November elections.
President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats haven’t pushed for new gun controls since rising to power in the 2008 national elections. Outspoken advocates for stricter laws, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, say that’s because of the powerful sway of the National Rifle Association.
But advocates also say the latest shooting is a tipping point that could change the dynamic of the debate dramatically. Feinstein, D-Calif., said she plans to create a national committee devoted to rallying support for a ban on the sale of new assault weapons and will propose legislation next year that would ban big clips, drum and strips of more than 10 bullets.
“It can be done,” she said Sunday of reviving the 10-year ban that expired in 2004.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who is retiring, said there should be a national commission to scrutinize gun laws and loopholes, as well as the nation’s mental health system and the role that violent video games and movies might play in shootings. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said he would support such a panel, adding that it was time for a “national discussion” that included school safety.
“This conversation has been dominated in Washington by — you know and I know — gun lobbies that have an agenda” Durbin said. “We need people, just ordinary Americans, to come together, and speak out, and to sit down and calmly reflect on how far we go.”
Congress has frequently turned to independent bipartisan commissions to try to solve the nation’s worst problems, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Iraq war and the failing economy. But ultimately, lawmakers are often reluctant to act on the recommendations of outsiders, especially if they think it will cost them support in their home states.
Still, Lieberman defended the idea of a national commission as the only way to ensure that the “heartbreak and anger” of the Connecticut shooting doesn’t dissipate over time and that other factors beyond gun control are considered.
It’s not a good idea to let emotion rule public policy. Lieberman’s reason for the national commission — to ensure that the anger people feel doesn’t go away — borders on advocating mob rule. Angry people don’t think straight and can be manipulated into supporting extreme measures — exactly the kind of thing that gun control advocates want. They wish for the American public to lose sight of the Second Amendment in this debate and demand legislation that would be injurious to constitutional protections.
This is the ultimate exploitation of the tragedy and if Democrats really believe that the purpose of the commission should be stoke the “heartbreak and anger” of American citizens, supporters of gun rights should resist its formation with everything they’ve got.