Sunday, July 22, 2012


Just a bit of history.  Twenty years ago the tobacco lobby was considered to be so powerful as to be unassailable.  Tobacco companies marketed their products to children, they targeted minorities, women and college students as the next wave of smokers.  Tobacco company executives went to capitol hill, swore an oath, and then perjured themselves by saying that cigarettes were not addictive.  All with impunity.

After the Aurora theater massacre, we're now saying that the NRA and the gun lobby are so powerful that nothing can be done.  Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has said that the possession of large ammunition magazines  is a constitutionally protected right.  And within a week, we'll probably all be hearing the tired old mantras that guns don't kill people, people kill people, that the actions of a single disturbed individual has nothing to do with the dangers of unfettered gun ownership.

Meanwhile, many of us on the left are saying the sensitive thing; that we should not politicize this tragedy.  That the families of the dead, wounded and damaged should not be drawn into a political campaign on the whole gun control debate.

This is wrong.  We politicize issues that need addressed, and the lightly regulated, absolute right to own any type of weapon is an issue that needs to be hammered in the public forge.  As long as we show sensitivity for the dead of this horrific shooting, the shootings in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, and others, the gun lobby and the NRA will rule the debate.  Their voices will not go challenged, and it will only be a matter of time before another crazy with a credit card and a deranged sense of self will buy an arsenal and gun down more people.

Twenty years ago big tobacco had it good.  But things change.  Joe Camel is gone, smoking in the workplace has disappeared from many states, and tobacco company execs consult with lawyers, fearing what they say may come back to haunt them.  It won't be easy, but gun lobbyists can be put on the defensive with enough pressure.  The first step should be a ban on large magazines.  A one hundred round clip isn't needed for hunting or self defense.  After that, a return to the full assault weapons ban.  But it won't happen if we are sensitive.  The twelve deaths in Aurora, Colorado should be the rallying cry for a new movement, no matter how cruel it may seem.

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