Just 24 hours after the tragic elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Beto O’Rourke found a way to make the tragedy all about him.
The Texas gubernatorial candidate tried to upstage his rival, Gov. Greg Abbott, as he was updating the public on the tragedy Wednesday. Bursting into the room to shout about guns and parade for the cameras, O’Rourke’s performance was so grotesquely narcissistic it disqualified him from being considered a serious person, let alone a candidate for high office.
But sadly, his emotional outburst is where we are at when it comes to dealing with the scourge of mass shootings: stuck in a viciously partisan stalemate.
Gun control advocates high on their own moral virtue mindlessly demonize upholders of the Second Amendment as monsters, incapable of empathy. Besieged defenders of the constitutionally protected right to bear arms dig in and refuse to give an inch. The rest of the world looks on, aghast, at America’s madness.
“Can we not be a nation that can stand together for at least a day or a week or a month, my gosh, to put these families first,” exclaimed an anguished Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, after O’Rourke interrupted the press conference.
“We live in a time where . . . people are at each other’s throats . . . whether it’s on the Internet or an Oscar’s stage or two coaches arguing or the political world or the media world. Who are we as an American people? Who are we?”
Patrick encapsulated the despair anyone who loves this country feels.
If gun control is the aim, rancor and finger pointing goes nowhere, as is obvious from the past 10 years since the Sandy Hook school massacre.
Seek common ground
There should be common ground for politicians acting in good faith, with polls showing almost all Americans, whether they own a gun or not, agreeing that background checks should be strengthened and the mentally ill prevented from buying guns.
Banning people under 21 from purchasing semi-automatic weapons, as New York Gov. Hochul is advocating, makes sense, considering most school shooters are teenagers. The Uvalde killer was 18, the Sandy Hook shooter was 20.
Most school shootings between 1970 and June 16, 2020, were perpetrated by 16- and 17-year-olds, according to Statista research. The numbers decline sharply from age 18.
Keeping guns out of the hands of emotionally disturbed young men until their brains fully develop could save lives. But, as with all attempts at gun control, it may be unconstitutional. A California ban on semiautomatic weapons for adults under 21 was ruled unconstitutional this month by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
We need to be realistic about what can be achieved with new laws, and it is destructive for Democrats like Chuck Schumer to raise false expectations by pretending that somehow 400 million guns will magically disappear if monstrous Republicans would stop being obstructive.
That’s Joe Biden’s line, too.
His initial instincts seemed good on Tuesday night in his speech reacting to the tragedy of Ulvade.
Stoking partisan fires
His opening and closing words were appropriately respectful and mournful, a president with personal knowledge of grief calling for the nation’s prayers for murdered children and their families.
But the core of his speech struck a wildly different tone. The man who claimed at his inauguration that his goal was to unify the country went out of his way to stoke the same bitterly partisan divisions that got us here.
Biden began by empathizing with the grieving parents. “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away.”
He quoted scripture: “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
So many crushed spirits, he said.
“So, tonight, I ask the nation to pray for them, to give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel right now.”
He should have ended there, because what he had said was perfect, a healing balm for a nation united in grief.
But then he flicked the switch to nasty and raised his voice in anger, the only emotion that seems to animate him.
“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” began a tirade complete with his old joke about deer in Kevlar vests and vague appeals for action.
“I am sick and tired of it. We have to act.”
He blamed his political opponents: “We need to let you know that we will not forget.”
What does that even mean?
We have a president who seems incapable of making a statement without blaming Republicans or “Ultra MAGA” for all the self-inflicted ills that plague his presidency, despite the fact his party controls the House, the Senate and the White House.
Wednesday afternoon, while the sweet faces of the victims of Uvalde were filling the news and the shock of their deaths still was sinking in, the president chose to reach backwards to rip open the wound of George Floyd.
Can he not see that the wave of crime and carnage engulfing the nation now is due to the “Defund Police” movement’s violent anti-cop riots after Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis cop.
Now Biden thinks that what the country needs is another divisive executive order, to “reform” police practices, just another vain attempt to appease the radical left of his party and stoke racial disharmony.
Again he took a swipe at “our Republican colleagues,” and fell back into fueling imaginary grievances against cops, declaring “black Americans wake up knowing they could lose their life in the course of just living their life today, simply jogging, shopping, sleeping at home.”
That statement is more true today than it was before he became president, thanks to less policing of crime-ridden black neighborhoods.
There is a sickness in America, and more rage and partisan point-scoring from the White House just makes it worse.
But Biden still has a chance to rescue his presidency. If he would stop exhorting us to hate his enemies, and help us love one another, he would have a chance of fulfilling his campaign promise to unite the country.
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