FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Newtown’s Moral Authority for Action

by RALPH NADER

Po Murray, a mother of four children in Newtown, Connecticut, the location of the shooting rampage that took the lives of 20 youngsters and six adults, met with about forty of her townspeople in the local public library to take their grieving to a new level of resolve that they call Newtown United.

The PBS NewsHour carried the conversation. “This catastrophe happened in our town,” Murray said, “this is an opportunity for us to do something really good from a very tragic event that happened. This is a watershed for meaningful change. And I think that we could do something big. And I want to be defining our town by that, not by the tragic event that happened.”

Others agreed. James Belden, who runs an environmental nonprofit, said that Newtown, finding itself in “an unfortunate place right now,” has “a little more of a voice than we did on Thursday.” Tom Bittman, a technology consultant, added: “And if nothing else, if we can get a good national discussion going, and keep it going and get to a resolution, then we win.”

From such horrible tragedies emerge the beginnings of a national movement that moves sanctimonious politicians from talking to acting. Newtown has a moral authority to be heard and respected in Washington, D.C. and around the country. It is an authority born of a determination that these children and brave adults shall not have perished in vain. Imagine 12,000 human beings in the U.S. who, in columnist Richard Cohen’s words, annually succumb “to the routine mayhem caused by guns,” not counting thousands of suicides.

In other countries where such rampages have occurred – Australia and Norway – legislative reforms followed quickly and they worked not to eliminate but to reduce risks and harms. Drawing on his experience as Chief of Staff to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Joseph A. Califano, Jr. provided President Obama with important advice in The Washington Post, “Demand action on comprehensive gun control immediately from this Congress or lose the opportunity during your presidency.”

In Japan, with a third of the U.S.’s population, eleven people lost their lives to guns in 2008, a tiny fraction of one percent of the casualties of the same kind in the United States. Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has organized hundreds of Mayors in a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns said: “We are the only industrialized country that has this problem. In the whole world, the only one.”

The problems are numerous, some more tractable than others. The greatest consensus starts with requiring stricter criminal background checks on gun sellers and gun buyers. This receives majority support among NRA (National Rifle Association) members. Next in public support would be the renewal and strengthening of the ban on assault weapons and other military hardware, followed by limits on high-capacity magazines and certain kinds of ammunition.

There are, of course, more controversial measures, including two proposed by President Johnson – licensing all gun owners, suitably trained, as we do with those wanting to drive, and registering firearms, as we do with motor vehicles. Also, as noted by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey and Doris A. Fuller in The Wall Street Journal that there would be fewer mass shootings “if individuals with severe mental illnesses received proper treatment.”

Officially, the NRA continues to urge stronger enforcement of existing laws. Yet its Congressional lobbyists and those of the gun industry have worked hard to keep the budget of the enforcement agency in the Justice Department inadequate to the task. And they’re succeeding, there are fewer enforcers now than there were forty years ago. In the Senate, these advocates are even blocking President Obama’s nominee for director of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).

Now, back to Newtown United. Tom Bittman, sensing that the current public shock and outrage may soon atrophy, declared “But now is the time where we can do the most. So, we have to do it now.”

Who is we? “We the people,” that is who, led by the abiding mourning of Newtowners, in sympathy with the daily fatalities on the streets and the same tragedies in Tucson, Aurora, Columbine and other places of slaughter. For the president and the members of Congress are susceptible to “bogging down” and being otherwise predisposed. It’s happened many times before.

Joe Nocera, columnist for The New York Times, found an apt precedent with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), started by Candy Lightner, who lost her 13-year-old daughter to a drunk driver. She and other grieving mothers raised funds, hired staff and lobbyists and toughened many of the drunk driving laws and penalties around the country with a salutary though obviously not perfect effect. “Minimize risk and reduce harm” are the pathways to addressing the gun problem, sourced in multiple causations and conditions.

The Wall Street Journal devoted an entire page in color to pictures of the Newtown children. That page or its likeness should be sent to the White House and your representatives in Congress again and again, to remind them of those innocent little ones and of the nearly 3,000 children every year who are killed by guns in this country.

People across the nation and especially from the surrounding, affluent towns – such as Greenwich, Darien and Wilton – should help provide the resources to Newton United so that its sorrowful determination is solidly based with enough resources to catapult its effort into an America United.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail