The Aurora Tragedy, Race and Gun Control
10 months ago
Could the Batman Massacre end “Stop and Frisk?”
Any time politics are mentioned in the same breath as a tragedy, whether it occurred a decade ago like 9/11, or days ago, like the shooting in Aurora, there will be some who view those doing the mentioning as callous, insensitive and self-serving.
Sometimes that view is spot on. But as plenty of others have already pointed out, there is rarely a better opportunity to engage the public on an issue of great importance than when that issue is forced into the public consciousness by a tragedy. So while I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the victims of the Aurora tragedy I also want to acknowledge that this moment presents an invaluable opportunity for some serious self-reflection by our country, particularly on the issue of gun violence.
Like all of you I am both saddened and angered that some coward robbed so many innocent lives, and in doing so forever robbed our country of any sense of safety and security during one our most innocent and treasured pastimes: watching a movie with our families. But I am also sad and angry at the cowardice many of our elected officials have shown on the issue of gun control in recent years.
The fact that the Federal Assault Weapons ban — a ban that would have covered the type of rifle used in Friday’s massacre — was allowed to expire in 2004 and has not even made it to the House floor since, should shame every member of Congress and enrage every American whose tax dollars pay their salaries. (Apparently there are actually four branches of government not three: the Executive, the legislative, the judicial and the NRA.)
A few elected officials have actually shown great courage on this issue, among them Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, who launched her career as the government’s guardian angel of gun control after her husband was killed and her son critically injured in the 1993 LIRR shooting rampage. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also made gun control one of his signature issues, serving as co-founder and primary funder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. But even elected officials whose hearts are in the right place politically can get policy wrong.
In a radio interview following the Aurora tragedy, Mayor Bloomberg criticized both President Obama and Gov. Romney for not tackling the issue of gun policy in detail on the campaign trail. While he didn’t use the c-word (as in “cowards”) the implication was there. But it never ceases to amaze me how politicians can see the policy misstep or political cowardice of their peers and not see it themselves.
While I applaud the Mayor’s efforts to get illegal guns off of the streets some of his methods for doing so have proven ineffective — offensively so, and I don’t use that term lightly. In recent months the Bloomberg administration has faced increased criticism for its defense of the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” practice, a practice decried as both a gross violation of civil liberties, and a form of government sanctioned profiling. Now I am not one who believes that our civil liberties and convenience should trump the safety of the greater community. I pack my lotion in a tiny container and a small Ziploc bag in my airport carry-on without complaint just like the rest of you. But I also do not believe that community safety should be used as a no questions asked shield to blanketly protect the government from legitimate criticism, and that is precisely what Mayor Bloomberg has tried to do in recent weeks.