While waiting for President Biden to make his suddenly scheduled address on gun violence last night, several somewhat sympathetic “talking heads” discussed what we could expect from his speech.
They concluded he’d have to be very careful, appealing to those ten elusive Republicans whose votes are essential if we are to see anything—anything at all—get through the Senate.
Some form of background checks, maybe a red flag law. In other words, the kinds of compromise that will have to include some Republican baggage that won’t do any good but will be the price to pay for their refusal to acknowledge the actual role of guns in America’s gun crisis.
It would have been reasonable to assume that of President Biden, who has tried and tried again to speak of and to his once-and-probably-not-future-friends across the aisle. He is an institutionalist who has long believed in bipartisanship.
But as I watched the President approach the podium, I sensed that he wasn’t about to be so very careful. He looked purposeful—and angry.
To me, he gave voice to our reality: we can’t expect to make serious inroads in this horrific American epidemic if we don’t address the guns.
He said so knowing that this Senate will not do what he’s asking. He devoted political capital to a concept that immediately got the naysayers claiming was “disingenuous.”
Over at the anti-American Fox “News,” Rep. Darrell Issa snarled that his speech was “an impeachable offense.”
The President did say this was not about taking away anyone’s weapons. He pointed out that in the majority opinion in Heller, the Supreme Court case that has been pointed to as reaffirming the Second Amendment, Justice Scalia wrote that the rights under this amendment are not absolute.
If the Senate couldn’t go for a ban on semiautomatic weapons and large magazines (which worked well in the past), at least, Biden pleaded, raise the legal age for purchasing such weapons from 18 to 21.
Noting that people contend if an 18-year-old can have a weapon for the battlefield, they have a right to them anywhere, he made the common-sense distinction that 18-year-olds in the armed forces are trained, supervised, and practice gun safety.
He also urged that gun manufacturers and people who don’t practice gun safety be made liable if their guns are misused by others.
And yes, he did speak of mental health, including a graphic description of the Uvalde child who played dead, and the widening toll of trauma from gun violence. He outlined a more meaningful response than the two-word reference cast about by the Republicans.
Why did the President go where others in the political sphere are too timid to do so now?
I think that after visiting the survivors in Buffalo and Uvalde, he is fighting mad. He promised them he’d do something. His demeanor reminded me of the way he looked and sounded when he spoke in Poland after meeting with Ukrainian immigrants.
This empathetic man wants to ease suffering. And he is frustrated that he hasn’t been able to do that.
He mentioned the House proposals on gun safety, which contain elements stronger than anything being discussed in the Senate.
If the Senate fails to make meaningful reform, he said, the people must do so by electing legislators who will do what the overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners, are demanding.
“My God,” he said. “The fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable.”
“We can’t fail the American people again,” he said.
“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” he asked. “Enough! Enough!”
“For the children we’ve lost…for the children we can save…for the country we love…let’s finally do something!”
He will be accused of “politicizing the issue.”
To which I say, “Hell, yeah!”
A man who deeply believes in “thoughts and prayers” is politicizing the issue to reduce the slaughter of Americans–young, old, and in between.
Thank you, Mr. President!