Presidential Words Mean Little

ObamaToday, Jonathan Chait wrote his only article about the shooting thus far, The Bracing Political Reality of Gun Control. He notes that there is one good thing to come out of this tragedy: we woke up to the fact that the conservative appeal that we not politicize mass shootings is itself politicization. And so people are talking.

But he continues on to argue that we are fooling ourselves if we think that this event will lead to a big change in gun laws. I agree with him. This goes back to an argument I have long made: politicians will at best listen to their constituencies. Why should a representative from a deep red district in Mississippi change his stance on guns just because people are screaming in New York? And Chait isn’t being cynical. Quite the contrary, actually. He says that if we want to change gun laws, we have to work at it: step by step. We can’t just wait for a tragedy and think that the President will make it all right.

Over on You Tube, WhoIsWillo posted this very striking video that compares how the last three presidents have reacted to similar tragedies. Spoiler: it is all the same—down to the exact words, in many cases. It is not from the top that we change:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Presidential Words Mean Little

  1. You’re right; these tragedies won’t change much in regard to gun control. Just like every other mass shooting, there will be a lot of talking for a little while, and then it will fade out until the next shooting, at which point the cycle will continue.

    It’s just like the Colorado theater shooting: for a while there was a lot of talk about gun control, yet it changed nothing, and the talk eventually faded away until the current massacre.

    Also, I don’t think even the most stringent gun regulation will completely prevent these shootings. After all, when have laws stopped people from doing anything? That’s not to say that gun control won’t help, because I’m sure it will to some extent, but the people committing these massacres don’t care if the guns are legally purchased or not. People get their hands on guns illegally all the time. To eliminate mass shootings, or at least greatly reduce them, it will take a lot more than just regulating the sale of guns.

  2. @Mack — I think what would be needed, at the very least, is a long-term (like, 25-year) plan to drastically reduce the number of handguns and military-style weapons in this country (leaving hunting gear untouched, and with Euro-style exceptions for competitive small-gauge pistol shooters.) It would involve cracking down on unlicensed gun shows and mail-order traffic and the sale of certain ammo.

    Yet we never make 25-year plans which have any sense to them, the gun lobby is WAY too powerful, and even a hint of any such legislation would flood the market with every firearm known to man (like gun sales went up after Obama’s election in 2008.)

    No, it’s not going to change. We’d have better odds at improving the economy and mental health care so as to produce fewer violently disturbed individuals — and the odds on either of those happening aren’t great, either.

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