A funny thing happened in the wake of the Colorado shooting. A broad consensus began to emerge among voices on the right and left that it’s time for some kind real conversation about legislative action to limit the killing of Americans by guns.
Yet the only people who don’t really want to join the conversation in any meaningful way are those who are in a position to do something about this problem — both presidential candidates, and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress.
The growing agreement on both sides that it’s time for serious action has been interesting to watch.
The liberal group CREDO Action is launching a campaign to get its hundreds of thousands of members to call the White House and the Romney campaign to demand that Obama and Romney support reinstating the assault weapons ban. “We need to make sure the pressure on both President Obama and Governor Romney to lead on this issue does not go away,” says an email from CREDO to its list.
Some voices on the right are in agreement. “We have to do something about gun controls,” Rupert Murdoch Tweeted the other day, suggesting that guns should be denied to those with criminal records or a history of mental illness. Bill O’Reilly has now called for a law that would require anyone who sells heavy weapons to report the sale to the FBI, and says that the loophole in current federal law enabling unlicensed gun dealers to sell guns without a background check needs to be closed.
In the Post today, right-leaning writer Michael Gerson, while casting doubt on whether better laws would have stopped this particular shooting, rebutted the argument that new laws would be an affront to the constitution and said they merited debate in the name of public safety.
And yet, the people in a position to develop new legislative solutions are the only ones who are not willing to push for any such change. Obama recently voiced support for the principle that assault weapons shouldn't fall into the hands of criminals, but his spokesman clarified that he won’t push any new legislative action. Romney has said he doesn’t support any change in laws. And Congressional leaders in both parties have mumbled about possibly being open to changes in the law but have essentially punted.
“America is clearly ready to put aside partisan politics and have a serious national conversation about what we can do to prevent gun violence,” Dan Gross, the head of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, tells me. “It seems everyone is ready to have that conversation except the people we have elected to represent us and the men who are seeking our vote for president.”
Putting pressure on our elected leaders to take this problem more seriously probably won’t change this dynamic anytime soon. But it’s worth doing anyway, to shed light on their refusal to even debate whether there are legislative solutions that would stop the killing — an abdication of moral responsibility that deserves more attention, not less.