- Posted January 16, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Asking the fox to help reform the coop
By Dennis Nealon
Asking the NRA and the pro-firearms lobby for input on the nation’s gun crisis is precisely like asking the fox to weigh in on the chicken coop and its effectiveness in warding off danger.
It is a tired analogy – true enough. But in the context of our ongoing, ineffectual, showy debate over the gross proliferation of guns and epidemic of mass shootings in our country, this fox-coop comparison is entirely apt.
For those who haven’t overheard it, here is the just-completed discussion between the fox, in this case the NRA, and the farmer, played by Vice President Joe Biden.
The farmer: “You know, Mr. Fox, we’ve been thinking that we ought to make sure all of the chickens in our coop are as safe as we can possibly make them. We will do whatever it takes, short of banning all foxes, of course. Now, you also know we like you foxes very much; there are a lot of fine foxes out there. Please, we don’t mean to offend you in anyway. It’s the opposite: we’re coming to you with hat in hand, polite as can be. But our chickens are not safe. Out of thin air, seems like, a lot of them have been dying. We’re talking chickens that never did anything to anyone; wholly innocent chickens. We have to do something. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a matter of just going after the foxes that have the most dangerous teeth – those that can bite and kill a whole hell of a lot of chickens in just a couple seconds. First, though, we want to make sure we turn to you for your input. Maybe you can kindly put aside your own interests and help us out? Is the chicken coop strong enough? High enough? Can changes help us to stop the killing?"
The Fox (with a Mr. Grinch-like smile and voice): “Now, now, Mr. Farmer, no changes are needed. Coop’s good as is. Some chickens are going to die anyway, and it’s true that it may be the littlest and those just being at school or a movie, say. But that’s just the way it goes. So suck it up. Sure there are some very bad, dangerous foxes out there, but those that are causing all the fuss – they’re suffering from mental illness. That’s what you need to be looking at. Mostly it’s all good. Status quo’s just fine. In fact, let me be clear on behalf of all us foxes, I oppose any coop reforms and warn you that if you try to force changes – try to introduce new coop configurations or bar certain types of foxes from hanging around them – you will face my wrath and that of my associates. Remember, foxes have a lot of clout and we can support or oppose any particular farmer that we want to. Also, you know I will talk about the Second Amendment and farmer interference all day and night – until your cows come home – if necessary. I don’t care if that discussion is relevant or not. It’s always worked; I know a good pivot point when I see one. And, oh, by the way, have you thought about just arming all of the chickens – giving them all semi-automatic guns? Or putting in specially trained, armed chickens in the coop with the other chickens?"
We jest – just a little. But here’s a serious question: where are we more than four weeks after the mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut? The little kids have been buried; the media’s left town (mostly); and the community seems to be figuring out what to do with the memorials that sprang up after the Dec. 14 massacre. As a nation we’ve already begun to put this tragedy in the rear view mirror. Just like Aurora and the others. We’re good at that. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are talking semi-tough publicly on the one hand while quietly bathing the NRA and the pro-firearms lobby in oil of obsequiousness with the other.
The administration on Jan. 16, 2013 announced a two-part plan to address gun violence – a plan that is most interesting for the contrast between the president’s softer executive orders that don’t require Congressional approval and much more important actions that won’t go anywhere without Congress’ approval. The administration released a list of 23 executive orders that, however well intended and nice sounding they may be, lack any real teeth and wouldn’t be deemed objectionable by most. These include launching “a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign;" "reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission);" and "issuing a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations."
In contrast, the President has asked Congress to pass actual laws that would require background checks on all gun sales (not just some); restore a ban on so-called "military-style assault weapons;" ban gun magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds; and toughen penalties on people who sell guns to those who can't have them. Where are these provisions headed? The answer is: likely nowhere. The NRA has already gone on record as opposing any new gun laws or returning to the assault weapons ban, whose effectiveness as a deterrent to mass shootings has been hotly debated and remains uncertain. Many legislators, even at the moment that the administration’s wish list was being announced, were vowing that they wouldn’t support these new laws. It does not bode well that some Democrats are among these detractors.
And so we are left with some very nice but ineffectual executive orders and a set of proposed laws that if signed might at the very least establish a new beachhead in the battle against gun violence in the country – if, that is, they weren’t going to be DOA when they reach the Capitol.
It may be that in a country whose history is replete with epic “whys,” this exercise in gun safety management or gun control (whichever you prefer) represents the biggest “why” of this generation. How is it that a nation reeling from the murder of innocents – still, and again, -- is powerless to do anything substantial about its monumental gun crisis? Is asking the NRA for its solutions or, rather, non-solutions a logical path toward the historic reform that we need? Is offering a broad brush against the mentally ill – a type of prejudice that suggests all mentally ill people are dangerous – progress?
The table is set for no action. It is not a bold prediction to suggest that having lunched with what it considers to be the appropriate stakeholders, the Obama administration will walk away when Congress fails to adopt new laws. “We tried; we really tried,” the White House will say. Our elected representatives in Washington, those with the most power in this conundrum, will not upset the status quo – not at this hour – a moment in time when America needs exactly that: someone bold who will not only rock the boat on this issue but capsize it altogether. Is this a crisis? You bet. It’s the stuff of which marches on Washington are made.