January 11, 2013

Yesterday Joe Biden met with officials from the National Rifle Association in hopes of finding common ground in the quest to prevent future massacres, such as the one in Newtown, which killed 20 children. Predictably, the NRA put out a statement that was full of lies, accusing the White House’s gun task force of an “agenda to attack the Second Amendment” and of blaming “law-abiding gun owners” for the “acts of criminals and madmen.” As always, the game plan is to stoke resentment and fear among gun owners and to obscure the real goals of sensible gun law reform. This signals that an epic battle lies ahead.

In this context, you really should read the Huffington Post’s big piece detailing the degree to which the NRA represents, first and foremost, the multibillion dollar gun industry. The piece details the financial ties between the two, and demonstrates a key thing about this debate: The NRA is putting an enormous amount of firepower into defending what can only be described as an extreme worldview, one that encourages resistance to even the most sensible regulatory and public safety efforts, with the apparent goal of ensuring that the country is awash in as many guns as possible.

From the point of view of gun reform advocates, this was captured perfectly in Wayne La Pierre’s now infamous statement, which accompanied his call for armed guards in schools as the only way to protect our children: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Left unsaid, of course, is that having “good guys” with guns in no way precludes doing far more to prevent the “bad guy” from getting a gun in the first place. The NRA wants to frame this debate as a false choice — as one between improving front line security for our children (with guns, natch) and doing more to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting access to lethal, overwhelming firepower. But these are not mutually exclusive at all. Indeed, the White House is weighing a proposal to make federal funding available for schools that want to hire cops and surveillance equipment to keep guns out of schools, an idea that would be part of its broader package of reforms.

The point is that both sensible gun law reform and and sensible security efforts can be simultaneously pursued — even though the NRA wants to deceive you into thinking otherwise. What’s more, the vast majority of Americans almost certainly don’t buy into the organization’s increasingly transparent Second Amendment alarmism. As noted here yesterday, polls show that very large majorities, including majorities of Republicans, support the gun reforms that are currently being discussed.

* Krugman goes full column on “mint the coin”: As expected, here’s Paul Krugman’s full column calling for the president to mint the platinum coin. Money arguments:

wouldn’t the coin trick be undignified? Yes, it would — but better to look slightly silly than to let a financial and Constitutional crisis explode…it’s the president’s duty to do whatever it takes, no matter how offbeat or silly it may sound, to defuse this hostage situation.

The argument for the coin is basically that whether we go into default or avert it with the coin, either way we’re going through a banana republic-style crisis, so better to do that without also going through a massive financial meltdown. I still don’t believe the GOP’s default threat is anything but an empty ruse.

* Will Chuck Schumer really oppose Chuck Hagel? The chances of confirmation for the nominee for defense secretary may turn on Senator Schumer, but Politico reports this:

Privately, several sources say he has told senators it would be “very hard” for him to support Hagel as the next defense secretary because of his positions on Israel over the years. In New York, Schumer has told allies and power brokers in the Jewish community that he’s uneasy about Hagel’s nomination, a concern he reiterated at a private breakfast in Manhattan’s posh Park Avenue Winter restaurant on Wednesday.

I’m skeptical that this amounts to much — Schumer may well be letting his uneasiness known to pave the way to support Hagel later — but if true, it’s amazing.

* White House looks to isolate NRA: I’ve been saying that this job one for the White House, and now Politico’s Reid Epstein reports that Obama’s gun group is undertaking a concerted strategy to build a broad-based coalition specifically designed to create the impression that wide public support is building for sensible gun law reform, leaving the NRA all alone. The key to this is to spotlight the NRA’s opposition to individual reforms that have broad support.

* Is White House wobbling on assault weapons ban? The New York Times reports that the White House may be worried that an assault weapons ban may not get through Congress and may focus instead on other measures, such as universal background checks and a ban on high capacity magazines. However, the sourcing in the story is unclear. Sam Stein reported yesterday that an assault weapons ban is still on the table.

As noted here previously, one idea that will likely be considered is introducing measures separately, so even if an assault ban is a tough lift in Congress, Republicans will still be challenged to oppose such broadly supported measures as background checks for all buyers of guns.

 * More on those executive actions on guns: Also in the above link, a key nugget:

Mr. Biden’s comment this week about taking executive action was seized on by some opponents as evidence that the president wanted to unilaterally restrict gun sales to legal buyers. But officials said executive action refers to limited measures like directing more attention and resources to pursuing violations of existing gun laws and studying gun violence.

So these executive actions won’t involve actual gun regulations, it seems. Of course, no matter what the White House tries to do through executive action, no matter how modest or sensible, the “gun rights” crowd will denounce it as tyranny, so…

* Obama should play hardball on big issues: Former labor secretary Robert Reich makes the provocative argument that Obama not only can, but has the responsibility to, take bold executive actions if the nation is under threat, obligating him to “mint the coin” if default really looms. The White House has also threatened executive actions on guns, provoking howls of protest from the right, but Reich notes there’s ample

* And today in right wing media: Jed Lewison and Steve Benen have the goods on the latest Fox hilarity about the platinum coin, in which the network appears not to have a firm grasp on how money works.

What else?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.