Sometimes the chance juxtaposition of two news articles sends its own message.
It occurred this morning as I read my morning Washington Post at the breakfast table. I had just finished the article on Mexican President Calderon's address to a Joint Session of Congress yesterday, in which he urged American lawmakers to "consider reinstating" the assault weapons ban that had expired in 2004. I then turned to the next page, where my eye was caught by a brief article about two Arkansas police officers, who were fatally wounded by gunmen with AK-47s, after their van was pulled over along Interstate 40. Ninety minutes later the gunmen died in a shootout with police at a local Wal-mart, in which two more officers were wounded, one critically.
If President Calderon is wondering why so many in Congress responded to his call for action on guns by sitting on their hands, the Arkansas police shooting gives him his answer. Too many in Congress are unwilling to stand up to the gun lobby bullies to help President Calderon protect the lives of brave Mexican police officers because they don't even have the courage to do the same to protect brave American police officers. The trafficking of assault weapons and other guns out of American gun shops supplies the illegal market, not just in Mexico, but in our own cities and towns as well. Drug criminals armed with assault weapons kill American police, as well as Mexican police.
In his extraordinary speech, President Calderon told Congress that Mexico has seized 75,000 assault weapons and other guns and over 80% of those traced originated with American gun shops. He said the escalation in Mexican drug violence "coincides with the lifting of the assault weapons ban in 2004," powerful support for the impact of gun laws in reducing the supply of guns to violent criminals.
Unlike many of our own political leaders, President Calderon understands that the American people have as much at stake on this issue as the Mexican people. He told Congress: "Today, these weapons are aimed by the criminals not only at rival gangs but also at Mexican civilians and authorities. And with all due respect, if you do not regulate the sale of these weapons in the right way, nothing guarantees that criminals here in the United States with access to the same power of weapons will not decide to challenge the American authorities and civilians."
The Mexican President was being diplomatic. Criminals with assault weapons challenging American police and civilians represent not a future prospect, but today's continuing and tragic reality. As Congress listened to Calderon's words, two Arkansas police officers lay fatally wounded. What more justification for action does Congress need?
And then there is President Obama. He should be profoundly embarrassed that it took the President of another country to call on Congress to take action on guns, while he and his Administration cower in fear of the gun lobby. If our President ever summons the courage to ask Congress to do the right thing on guns, he need look no further than the words of President Calderon: "I admire the American Constitution, and I understand that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee good American citizens the ability to defend themselves and their Nation. But believe me, many of these guns are not going to honest American hands."
President Calderon understands that it does no damage to the Second Amendment to protect police officers from assault weapons. Thank you, Mr. President, for speaking for our people, as well as your own.
Are you listening, President Obama?
For more information, see Dennis Henigan's Lethal Logic: Exploding the Myths that Paralyze American Gun Policy (Potomac Books 2009).