Don't listen to those who say President Barack Obama's bold plan to reduce gun violence — including an assault weapons ban — has no chance in Congress. I seem to recall that health care reform was deemed impossible, too. Until it happened.
I also recall that the health care fight cost Democrats dearly in the 2010 midterm election. But the White House seems to have learned valuable lessons from that experience, including the need to be vivid and insistent in driving home the need for change. Hence the decision to have children on stage and in the audience Wednesday as Obama announced his proposals.
It was a heart-rending reminder of why we're talking about gun control: the unspeakable massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month. The gun lobby and its allies in Congress immediately charged that by using children in this way, Obama was not playing fair. Those critics would have a point — if this were a game.
As the people of Newtown know — and the people of Aurora, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., Blacksburg, Va., and so many other cities know far too well — this is no game. It's a matter of life and death.
Roughly 30,000 Americans will die by gunshot this year. About two-thirds will be suicides; almost all the rest will be victims of homicide. It is obvious that if guns could be kept out of the hands of people who are dangerously unstable or inclined to commit crimes, and if the weapons themselves were better suited for sport or self-defense than for killing sprees, lives would be saved.
How many lives? We would have a better estimate if Congress had not effectively prohibited federally funded research on the subject — and if presidents hadn't acquiesced in the ban. One of the executive actions Obama announced was an order that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it.”