Home National Politics President Obama, Please Stop the “Both Sides” Nonsense on Guns

President Obama, Please Stop the “Both Sides” Nonsense on Guns


( – promoted by lowkell)

I heard you on TV last week, talking about guns. I’m glad you’re pressing the matter, and not just letting it die. But something about the way you talked about the gun issue made me want to scream.

I heard you doing that “both sides do it” nonsense.  Explaining why it’s so hard to get reasonable things done, you said both sides take “extreme positions.”

But just what is the “extreme position” anybody in Congress is taking on the gun-control side?  Is anyone taking a position more “extreme” than what you have proposed — universal background checks and a ban on weapons and ammo-clips that enable a shooter to massacre dozens of people within seconds?

Even if there were positions more in the direction of gun-control than yours, would they be “extreme” using the laws of all the other advanced societies in these matters as the standard of what’s reasonable and what’s extreme. (The citizens of those nations are 20 times less likely than Americans to die from firearms.)

No, what’s extreme is the position taken by the NRA, and by all those who either agree with the NRA or allow themselves to be intimidated by the NRA.  What’s extreme is taking the right to bear arms as an absolute, so that even weapons that have no legitimate civilian use — self-protection or hunting — must be allowed in a 21st century civilized society.

So why give voice to this “both sides” nonsense?  It’s contrary to the truth, and it’s counter-productive.  It gets in the way of achieving your purposes.

The leadership the American people need
on this gun issue will tell it like it is.  It will help our citizenry understand that our toxic, obstructionist, extreme politics is not coming from both sides.  It’s coming from one side that’s gone off the deep end. It’s coming from a side that uses fear-mongering lies and treats politics as warfare.  

Helping the American people see this is Job One for you, Mr. President.  It’s Job One because none of the other jobs will get done, or get done right, until enough of the American people see clearly the nature of the force that’s preventing us from meeting our challenges — on the gun issue, and just about every other problem in America that needs addressing.

I don’t think your way (“both sides do it,” “extreme positions” in both directions, the problem with “Washington”)  makes you look reasonable.  It makes you look weak.  It doesn’t make you look like a truth-teller.  It makes you look like you’ve allowed yourself to become enmeshed in a political system in which the lie too often defeats the truth.

Appeasing these opponents with bogus even-handedness will not make them any more likely to cooperate with you. The Republicans who do the bidding of the NRA on the gun issue are the same people who made it their top priority in your first term to make you fail. If they budge, it won’t be because you treat them with a respect they don’t deserve but because you’ve made the political costs of their destructive conduct too great for them to bear.

Andy Schmookler, recently the Democratic candidate for Congress from Virginia’s 6th District, is an author whose books include, Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    I have so far resisted one impulse that crossed my mind as an action to be the basis of an op-ed to be shopped to newspapers. Suppose I, a woman who last shot a pistol in 1982 – that was a 22-cal. revolver – were to go down to my friendly, neighborhood Walmart and purchase a semi-automatic pistol and a multi-shot clip and ammo. I would expressly not ask for any information on the weapon, especially the location of the safety or the safe way to store such the weapon. Then, I would go home, get on the Internet and take the Virginia multiple- choice concealed carry permit test until I finally passed. Next step would be to print out  my passing grade, go to the courthouse, pay my fee, and go home to wait for my concealed carry permit to arrive in the mail.

    That permit would allow me to carry that weapon concealed most anywhere in the state, even though I have never proved I knew how to aim it, how to engage the safety, how to  handle or store a firearm. Heck, I could even carry that gun and leave my glasses at home, rendering me, for all intents and purposes, totally unable to aim at anything accurately, not even the side of a barn.  

    That is the state of affairs in Virginia as run by the Republicans, where pandering to the NRA and the paranoid conspiracy theorists who see a pinko commie under every rock is business as usual.

    By the way, I’m not opposed to law-abiding citizens carrying concealed weapons. I just think common sense requires that those citizens prove, on a police firing range, that they know how to handle firearms to protect the safety of the rest of us. After all, long ago when I was given a driving permit I had to prove I knew how to drive. That was to protect other people. In Virginia, that’s not the way things relating to guns are handled.  

  • Quizzical

    To me, the “other side” from the NRA’s position is plain old common sense.

    For instance, everyone seems to agree that the mentally ill shouldn’t be able to buy or possess firearms. But how can you do that effectively without knowing whether the mentally ill live in a household with firearms, and without knowing who is buying ammunition?