With the burials of the children of the Newton tragedy proceeding as the grimmest reminder and the politics against gun control weakening, how can we seize this moment? The president plans to announce today a task force headed by Vice President Biden. It seems the president wants a comprehensive approach to reform and has been consulting wisely with his secretaries of education and health and human services. Biden is also a wise choice; few in the nation know more about law enforcement, crime and the gun issue than Mr. Biden.
However, a word of caution about this task force. It seems a little old school to me, a little slow, not quite up to the moment. The public's attention — even to the worst tragedies — is short, and who can blame people. Newton was the eighth mass killing just this year. Moreover, there are some really good ideas out there now that offer a new approach to gun control.
Readers of this blog know my admiration for the think tank Third Way. It does what think tanks are supposed to do — think, come up with good ideas and then share their thoughts with policymakers. In a world where Jim DeMint and the Koch brothers are now in the policy-advice business, unbiased, pragmatic guidance is more essential than ever. On gun control, you can find it here (in a Third Way paper released this week. Its authors know this issue cold, having worked on it for more than a decade. I recommend reading it for yourself. It's short, and it is being read in the White House and in congressional offices. Basically, it argues for some very practical approaches to preventing the use of guns in crimes. My favorite is to use technology to make guns only usable by their owners. If someone else tries to use them, they won't work. (Adam Lanza killed those kids with a stolen gun; in fact, about 10 percent of all gun crimes are committed with stolen weapons.) The memo goes on with other smart approaches, such as closing the gun-show loophole that allows thousands of guns to be sold with no background checks at all. The White House could do worse than do have someone turn this Third Way memo into legislation and push for it. Now.