Compromise is the nature of successful government, which tea partiers can’t or won’t grasp, and Vice President Joe Biden rightly observed Wednesday that it will require compromise to produce significant gun reform in the year ahead. Compromise doesn’t mean giving away the store, however, and with the White House on the side of the angels it must be resolute.
In the spirit of compromise on health care reform, President Obama immediately took single-payer off the table in the assumption that Republicans would respond in kind. The GOP never gave an inch, of course, and the Obamacare legislation that eventually became law would have been stronger if the White House hadn’t begun by out-negotiating itself.
That can’t happen again on guns. The response to Newtown must include a ban on assault weapons, one without the loopholes that weakened the last federal ban before it lapsed. This must be accompanied by a ban on high-capacity magazines. Another must is the extension of background checks to private gun sales, closing down an avenue for criminals and the mentally ill. These are the basics of real reform, and for this and more to happen Washington must stop quaking before an NRA that does a disservice to its many responsible members by pandering to every weapon whim of an irresponsible fringe.
At his State of the State speech Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo of neighboring New York called for tougher restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines of ammunition in New York in response not just to Newtown but to the Christmas Eve killings of two firefighters in Western New York by another lunatic with an assault weapon. "No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer," said the governor with the passion yet to be seen from the White House. "End the madness now!"
We learned Wednesday that the United States continues to lead 17 wealthy nations studied by a wide margin in the number of violent deaths sustained annually. Americans have a comparatively low life expectancy, partly because of a proclivity for obesity and alcohol abuse. Another reason is the widespread possession of firearms, unique to the United States, that too often leads to the deaths of home-owners and family members. Part of the solution for America’s gun sickness is in the dismissal of old beliefs about the value of guns in favor of the acceptance of the guns’ grim reality.