What I wish Obama said


Pres. Obama addressed the nation on terrorism Sunday night. Here is what I wish he said.

I wish the president had pointed out that while the killings in San Bernardino were shocking and heartbreaking, they are part of a larger pattern terrorizing this country. There have been over 350 mass shootings in this country in 2015. The total number of gun-related incidents this year now totals at least 48,754. The number of deaths stands at 12,343.

Yes, we have a problem with international terrorism. And at the moment, that problem is manifesting itself in the form of a murderous cult that fancies itself a form of Islam most Muslims barely recognize.

But as the recent killings in California demonstrate, if this country wants to make itself safer from terrorism, it must start by dealing with the ease by which people bent on violence can arm themselves with military-grade weapons.

Terrorism in the United States is not limited to jihad cultists. I wish the president had said that terror lives in urban neighborhoods across the country, where gang-related shootings have threatened our streets and militarized our police departments, driving a wedge between citizens and the officials empowered to protect them.

When criminals can outgun cops, cops become paranoid. Paranoid cops are a danger to themselves and to the rest of us.

I wish the president had pointed out that taking practical steps to curb gun violence, like imposing universal background checks on all gun sales, and reinstituting a ban on assault weapons, are about improving national security and public health. They pose no threat to the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

The goal is not to outlaw gun ownership, but to acknowledge the danger guns represent and take steps to make them safer.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, we recognize that automobiles can be dangerous. In response, we have created a variety of ways to regulate who can drive and under what conditions. The result has not been to eliminate vehicular-related deaths, but to reduce them significantly. We can do something similar with guns.

Whenever gun violence makes headlines, the same self-righteous voices speak up, citing statistics and brandishing anecdotes. I wish the president had said that it’s time we started allowing meaningful research to look into guns and how other countries deal with them. This means overturning the ban on gun violence research that Congress imposed in 1996, when it blocked funding to the CDC and National Institutes of Health for research that “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

And what, the president might have asked, is the alternative to “gun control?”

Well, what we have now: guns out of control.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Pres. Obama’s speech ran just over 13 minutes. Of that, about 59 seconds were devoted to guns. Some experts, given to reading between the lines, have said those 59 seconds could mark a turning point in how we deal with terrorism in this country. Maybe they’re right.

But I wish the president had come out and said so.


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