The murders at Newtown have affected the nation in a qualitatively different way than previous similar incidents. It looks like it will turn out to be the loudest and most alarming tragedy yet.
It was an alarm that came after the President was re-elected. An alarm at the end of two years filled with an exceptional rash of similar incidents. A shockingly shrill and seemingly endless alarm because 20 of the dead were first graders.
Who do most of us see in our minds' eyes when we think of first graders being buttoned up and sent off at school? Who do we see when those kids get off the bus, into the minivan or up the stoop and on to milk and cookies? Moms. Is that an accurate view of 21st Century life? Not necessarily. But it is what most of us imagine.
Which Senator was just sworn in with her four-year old boy on her hip? Which Senator, in 2009, introduced the only new, and very practical, bill that year aimed at reducing gun violence? Senator Gillibrand (NY). Who introduced a mirror image bill in the House? Representative McCarthy (NY-4). Pragmatic Bill. One mother of two. One widow with one son. I don't think it is a coincidence.
Moms of little children juggling career and family life are remarkably practical and results oriented. You cannot wait for a commission to complete a study to learn the best way for a little kid to finish the damn pasta. You cannot wait for pollsters to dial test their way to the conclusion that you need to have more than one babysitter in your contacts file. None of us can afford to wait until the people we elect are doddering old men who have enough seniority to drive things through the Senate.
On Sunday the 6th of January 2013, two days before the second anniversary of the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Senator Gillibrand re-re-introduced her "Gun Trafficking Prevention Act." It is one of three key sides of a triangle that could dramatically decrease the number of gun deaths in this country All three are vital. This least well known and least well understood of the three may be the single most important in the near term.
Allowing the sale of military-style weapons and large ammunition magazines to civilians is unjustifiable. These weapons are at the heart of most of the outrageous mass murders. Regulating them is very easy to understand. They don't, however, account for a high percentage of our annual body count.
Closing the gun-show loophole and forcing all gun owners to submit to reasonable background checks enabled by a thorough universal database would probably do the most good in the long term to get this epidemic under control. As logical as it seems, it is far more complicated than it looks. The NRA is very good at using these measures to get law-abiding gun owners very nervous about sliding down the mythical slippery slope.
Reducing the illegal trafficking of guns would save a lot of lives. It would keep a lot of families whole. It would go directly after the guns most often used in crime. It would make our communities, especially metropolitan areas, safer to live in. It would make it much more likely that inner-city youth would live long enough to have a chance at success in life.
There is no good way to interpret a crackdown on illegal trafficking as an attack on law-abiding citizens' rights to own weapons. It needs to stay at the top of the Biden Task Force's list. Theories, drama, and soaring oratory are great. Action, results, and lives saved are better. Passing the Gillibrand Gun Trafficking Prevention Act would make this country a better place to live in. It would make it a place where more people stay alive.