Global climate change is the biggest human-caused environmental disaster probably in the history of the planet. Gun violence is among the leading unnecessary killers in America and one of our nation's biggest public health threats. And in our current two party system, we can't talk about either.
Twelve dead in Aurora, Colorado. One was a six-year old. Two served their country in the military. Fifty-nine wounded. And a disturbed young man who bought all his guns, including an assault rifle, legally. All this a stone's throw from Columbine High School in Littleton. All on top of mass gun violence in Virginia, Illinois, Florida, and at a shopping mall in Arizona, just to name a few examples.
Guns kill people. There's too damn many of them in our society. There should be fewer and they should be hard to acquire. There is simply no reason for the sale and possession of any automatic firearm anywhere in America. Nobody should be able to easily amass 6,000 rounds of ammunition.
Can we finally put to rest the goofy argument that "law abiding citizens" should be able to own an arsenal? The Aurora shooter had no criminal record before he murdered twelve people with his guns. Everybody is law abiding -- until the first time they're not.
But in the current political environment, even the suggestion that we should restrict gun ownership of any kind is as dead on arrival as the shooter's victims. Wisconsin's own Senator Ron Johnson, the lost senator, actually surfaced on Fox News the other day to say something incredibly stupid before he vanished again. Johnson said: "When you try to do it [restrict high-capacity magazines] you restrict our freedom."
You're not restricting my freedom. I'm a hunter who owns two guns, and I don't need the ability to squeeze off a hundred rounds before reloading. If Johnson needs to do that to get his deer, he should go to the firing range and learn how to shoot.
The National Rifle Association has pursued a long, consistent policy of moving the debate further and further to the extreme. Recently, the group was key in defeating legislation in Congress that would have banned people on the terrorist watch list from buying assault rifles and other firearms.
This has been a conscious effort on the part the NRA to force the proponents of rational gun laws to play constant defense and to propose only the mildest (and least effective) gun controls. Even those seldom have a chance for passage.
But most Americans aren't as nuts as the leadership of the NRA. In fact, even 82% of the NRA's own membership supports the ban on the sale of guns to those on the terrorist watch list.
This is gut check time for politicians. Will Republicans continue to be wholly owned by the gun lobby? Will Democrats continue to cower in the corner as they have on global climate change and just about anything else of significance since they passed health care?
President Obama, in his national radio address last Saturday, ducked yet again, saying, "If there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's a reminder that life is fragile."
The president swapped a cliché for something real. No, Mr. President, if there's anything to be learned from this tragedy, it's a reminder that in the wake of the Congresswoman Gabby Giffords shooting, you promised to get serious about gun control and then delivered nothing.
Is Michael Bloomberg the only rational man in a responsible political position in America?
Bloomberg's courage in taking on the gun lobby is another piece of evidence that independent political thought is where we need to go in America. Neither political party has the inclination or ability to deal with our real problems.