President Obama asked the right question Sunday night in his address to the nation, a question I have been asking myself for months: Are we powerless?
Can we do nothing to protect ourselves from mentally deranged mass murderers? Policymakers had better come up with a better answer than yes. And Republicans and Democrats had better be prepared to come up with an action plan.
A political party that says that we can do nothing to protect our children from either a foreign or domestic enemy will soon be marginalized. Arming our teachers with weapons is neither a sufficient nor an appropriate answer.
Guns don’t kill people, according to gun enthusiasts. Yep, but bullets sure do. And in America, they kill more people quicker than the rest of the civilized world combined.
Getting rid of guns will not solve this problem, of course, nor is it politically practical. But making it harder for people to get vast stores of bullets, making it easier for victims of gun violence to sue gun purveyors, making it impossible for the mentally unstable to get access to guns — I think that may be possible. I think we should also raise the age at which a person can buy a gun, to 25. By then, you have a pretty good sense if a young man is just a bit strange or a danger to society.
Speaking of mental illness, parents need help with mentally unstable adolescents. They need practical advice, they need help with resources, they need support groups and they need access to doctors who can help them.
All of this will require more money. Maybe there should be a tax put on each gun purchase and on each round of ammunition. It would be a small price to pay to protect our nation’s children.
And we need to look at the culture that helps inspire these young killers. Video games, movies and music all play a role in forming the nihilism so common with some kids. Can anything be done about the culture? Maybe there should be an excise tax on violent movies.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a national commission was created by Congress to discover what exactly happened and what could be done to prevent another attack on American soil.
That commission and its recommendations had their critics, and not everything it proposed was enacted, but there hasn’t been a similar attack on American soil since then.
Maybe it is time to create a National Commission on the Newtown Tragedy. The panel would include theologians, psychologists, sociologists, criminal scientists, educators and cops, and they would come up with recommendations about how we can take steps to heal this country and these kids.
For me, this is personal. I have a young son and a young daughter, and I don’t want them to grow up in a society where everybody walks around fully armed, worried about either the gang-banger down the street or the pubescent Goth video-game wizard next door.
Both Republicans and Democrats have their share of wing nuts and extremists. Wing-nut-ism, though, has more sway in the current Republican base, making it impossible for the GOP to move forcefully on issues like protecting children from psycho killers. Republican leaders are going to have to deal with them, and it won’t be pretty.
A national commission might be a way to get the ball rolling. But after the commission is done and the recommendations are made, it will take a coalition of concerned parents to push the Congress into actually legislating.
The 9/11 widows conducted the most effective lobbying campaign I ever saw. If we get real change, the Newtown parents are probably going to be the ones who get it done.
Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com