Slog tipper Adam sends this excellent piece by Ezra Klein—on twelve facts about guns and mass shootings—but the opening point is one that can't be stressed enough:
When we first collected much of this data, it was after the Aurora, Colo. shootings, and the air was thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”
Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization... It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.
Nothing is more political if you're trying to have a rational discussion of policy—based the actual merits of that policy—than blocking the debate from happening at all. It's censorship. And right now, the White House is complicit in the radical right's politicization of the shooting by saying "today is not the day" to talk about it.
Obama's silence is purely political. It's obvious that it isn't just a timing issue for "today," because he's refused to have this discussion in a meaningful way before the Aurora shooting, on the day of the Aurora shooting, or after the Aurora shooting. He's refused to do it before the Newtown shooting, and now he's refusing to do it on the day of the Newtown shooting. There's no indication that he'll have this conversation until America forces him to have it. Obama's condolences are nice and all, but we don't just deal with mass death by being sad about it. Back to Klein:
If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.
Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not.
Restrictions on the casual ownership of souped-up murder weapons isn't a safe policy debate, plain and simple, because it's a third rail political issue. And the right has cornered the left's leadership into believing gun policy debates are third rail now and forever. That's bullshit. Gay marriage, legalizing pot, and ending plenty of foreign wars were also third rail—until people outside the Democratic tent pushed those issues inside the tent. Those issues are off the table until it is politically more dangerous to be silent than to engage. Flipping the politics allows the policy debate to happen at all. That's what needs to happen now with gun control: We need to push it inside the Beltway until this third-rail political hot potato is mandated as a normal policy debate.