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DIONNE: Will we forget the Newtown children?

The gun lobby and the weapons merchants are counting on our notoriously short national attention span.

They are counting on confusion, obfuscation and the quiet mobilization of allies to create one delay after another. Their hope is to keep Congress from acting quickly to protect children and other innocent Americans from gun rampages. The longer we wait, the less likely we are to act. See: short national attention span.

They are counting on President Barack Obama — despite his forceful promise of action on Wednesday — to avoid putting the full muscle of his administration behind a broad and bold set of measures to end our culture of violence.

They are counting on progressive interest groups to fight among themselves over whether gun safety is more important than, say, immigration reform and climate change. There is nothing like setting allies against each other to turn their energies away from a central goal.

They are counting on the hardened cynicism of Washington insiders who say it doesn't matter that 20 children are dead. The gun lobby always wins in the end, they'll growl, and it's naive to pretend otherwise. Hope is for chumps.

They are counting on the Democrats' desire to maintain control of the U.S. Senate and the fact that in 2014, Harry Reid's party is defending seats in states that have been bastions of opposition to gun legislation — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana and South Dakota, to name a few. Sure, the National Rifle Association is on its heels now, but the political consultants will warn about the millions it will spend the fall after next.

They are counting on the NRA's success in embedding itself into the DNA of the Republican Party and the modern conservative movement. When the NRA talks, conservatives listen — and do its bidding. Many politicians on the right will make sympathetic public sounds now about the people of Newtown, Conn. But out of public view, they will keep legislation bottled up in congressional committees. They will insist we wait for “careful studies” before doing anything. They will talk a mile a minute about mental health funding —— even if they have voted to cut such funding in the past.

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