Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We've Got Your Back, Mr. President

A very special thank you goes out to President Obama for keeping his pledge in the wake of the horror that was Sandy Hook a month ago, and stepping forward with concrete, specific proposals, as well as a plan to make inroads in curtailing gun violence in this country.

Apart from calling on Congress to ban military-style assault rifles, and limits on ammunition clips, as well as calling for universal background checks, the president followed up on recommendations of his panel, and passed a total of 23 executive orders.

Yes, Mr. Obama made history again today. He is not only the first president to pass comprehensive health care reform, but he has now introduced the most comprehensive, and far-reaching gun control legislation of any president in a generation.

Still, many would like to see more. Many would always like to see more, but we have to start somewhere, and as Vice President Joe Biden said, echoing late Senator Ted Kennedy, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Absolutely right.

There are some, like myself, who would like to have seen more muscle from the executive branch, and a directive to reinstate the military style assault weapons ban enacted under President Clinton which was allowed to lapse under President George W. Bush. Notably, it was Congress, under Bush, who allowed the ban on assault rifles to lapse. Mr. Bush would have reinstated it.

Notably, too, in 1994, Ronald Reagan, himself the target of a gun, heartily endorsed and argued in support of Senator Dianne Feinstein's original assault weapons ban. The irony that it is the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, who claim to be great admirers of Reagan, who now stand in the way of new legislation to prohibit the possession, transfer, and sale of weapons that were designed for the battlefield, and belong there.

The president is right not to reinstate the original 1994 assault weapons ban, a flawed document, and one that has more holes in it than your average slice of Swiss cheese.

He is also right not to listen to people like me who ask him to use his power as chief executive to circumvent what is, and what must be the will of the American people.

Those who continue to be appalled by the ease with which a madman, and a lone gunman, found his way into an elementary school in suburban Connecticut and wreaked havoc with so many lives, not merely the 26 victims, but all the rest of us who have been haunted by this tragedy, must do as the President urged, stand up, make our voices heard, and let our legislators know, in the words of Paddy Chayefsky, we're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore.

Oh, and by the way, as a nation we can't afford to be any less appalled when people of all ages, races, nationalities, and creeds are gunned down on the streets of our inner cities.

The Constitution was intended to be the people's document, and as Mr. Obama rightly says, it is up to the people to see to it that substantive, meaningful, loophole-free measures are passed to ensure our safety. This won't happen with the mere wave of a wand, whether it be a presidential or a congressional wand.

Meaningful, substantive firearm safety reform will only happen because we, the people, demand it, so let's get to work. Let's start by letting members of Congress of both parties who seek reelection in the 2014 midterm elections know that we will want to know where they stand on military assault rifles, background checks, and limiting rounds of ammunition. Our vote will depend on their position.

Are you among the many so-called progressive Democrats who sat out the midterm election of 2010 which was among the most important elections of our lifetime? Well, we're living with the results of that decision now, but it's not too late to shake things up if you make it a point to get out and vote in 2014.

Let's also let the president know that, even if we don't always agree, we have his back. He needs to hear that. There will be many who have tried to obstruct and thwart every significant action this administration has attempted to make since its infancy who will seize the day, and make even sensible gun reform seem radical. It is up to thinking, responsible Americans to see to it that those who attempt to disrupt this principled agenda, mostly right wing Republicans, meet with the same defeat they met with in November. Failure is not an option.