POLITICS
12/18/2012 06:20 pm ET

No Labels Punting On Gun Control, Despite Calls To Action From Prominent Members

If there's one thing that we know about the aftermath of a mass killing in America, it's the frustration that follows as lawmakers and public figures shy away from using their power and influence to even kindle a conversation on the widespread and largely unchecked availability of weapons of mass death. But the recent tragic events in Newtown, Conn., have many thinking that this time, things will be different, that we may have reached -- or are close to reaching -- a "tipping point," and that policymakers and stakeholders might finally have to wrestle with the knotty issues they've spent so many years avoiding.

With this idea -- that we're on the precipice of a "tipping point" -- fresh in our minds, the time seems ripe to bring as much pressure as possible on lawmakers to shuck off their well-worn disaffection and dysfunction and boldly step to the fore to offer real solutions to this problem. If only there was some sort of pressure group that has dedicated itself to problem solving, that wants our government to stop fighting and start fixing, and that believes we need to break the stranglehold that the extremes currently have on our political process and work to break political gridlock and promote constructive discussion. But where can I find some group like that?

No Labels is a movement of Democrats, Republicans and independents dedicated to the politics of problem-solving. We stand united behind a simple proposition: we want our government to stop fighting and start fixing.

No Labels supports reforms, leaders and legislation that will help fix America’s broken government and break the stranglehold that the extremes currently have on our political process. Through grassroots efforts like our Make Congress Work! campaign, we are working to break political gridlock and promote constructive discussion.

Oh, that's right! I completely forgot about No Labels, the rootin'-tootingest band of centrist solutioneers in the land. This is their moment, right?

Ha, ha: no. In fact, if No Labels has done anything to distinguish itself in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, it's been the way it has gone to extremes to avoid talking about the matter. I've been all over its site today, and there's nary a peep about the big news story and its attendant conversation anywhere to be found. Instead, the folks at No Labels have pressed on, discussing the "fiscal cliff," which is just a terrible metaphor that the media stole from Ben Bernanke that hasn't killed any children and also doesn't describe what's going to happen if Congress doesn't reach a deal on taxes and spending by Jan. 1.

I decided, instead, to go looking for material on the No Labels website that professed strong favor for an assault weapons ban, because that's just a basic common-sense solution that shouldn't be too hard to manufacture a bipartisan consensus around. But a search for "assault weapons" on the site took me nowhere.

Eventually, I discovered this, wedged in its "Problem Solver's Daily" for today:

EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE: Sen. Joe Manchin tweeted, "Everything needs to be on the table, and I ask all my colleagues to sit down to talk about firearms, mental health and our culture," after the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. Sen. Manchin has received an 'A' rating from the NRA on his stances before and it is encouraging to see leaders willing to put their own interests aside for the good of the country: Rachel Weiner for The Washington Post: Joe Manchin: Time to act on guns.

"Of course," I thought. I forgot all about Twitter, the social media tool that organizations now use to make immediate responses to the news of the day. Even Cleatus, the cartoon robot who dances around in promos for Fox's NFL coverage, had weighed in on the Sandy Hook tragedy. So, I would be willing to bet that I'd find lots of mention of the matter on No Labels' Twitter account.

As you might imagine, I was wrong. Oddly enough, the No Labels Twitter account very pointedly stopped sending messages on Friday, without making any mention -- even an "our hearts are with the people of Newtown" note -- of the events of the day. The group eventually picked up again on Monday, but despite the fact that it is publishing 140-character jeremiads like, "in case anyone was looking for more proof of the obvious, voters want legislators to work together," it makes no mention of the urgent matter that Americans have spent the past few days pushing legislators to tend to.

This is really baffling, considering the fact that two of the best-known figures associated with No Labels -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough -- have issued very firm statements on the matter, and a third -- No Labels co-founder Mark McKinnon -- had been urging an assault weapons ban long before Friday's events. But No Labels seems to want none of this in its DNA.

Despite the fact that this is a classic example of how an entrenched, dysfunctional status quo and far-flung partisan extremes have combined to ensure that the public's call to action gets mired in bog-standard Capitol Hill gridlock, No Labels just can't seem to get riled up about gun control. It does not want to take on a powerful lobby. It does not want to court any controversy. I guess it really, really doesn't like "labels," even the labels that read, "wants to limit the ability of people to slaughter others indiscriminately." What the group wants to do, it seems, is duck the matter as much as it can. It actually seems to care more about making lawmakers from both parties sit next to each other in Congress, than it does about preventing another gun-enabled mass homicide.

It's enough to make you wonder if all this "centrist pressure group" stuff wasn't just a dumb, dimwitted racket. But then you notice that at least Third Way has a lot of stuff to say about what happened in Newtown. And any time you are being less bold or less brave than Third Way, man, have you got problems.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

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