Newtown’s Moral Authority for Action


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! 

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?