Mockery Isn’t Fixing This

We can’t bully our way to gun control.

Dec. 3, 2015, 9:20 a.m.

Mock­ery isn’t fix­ing this.

As a sup­port­er of stronger gun con­trol, this New York Daily News cov­er and the re­lated #God­Isn’tFix­ingThis Twit­ter storm make me wince. Only people who agree with me can pray for vic­tims of gun vi­ol­ence?

In the story that in­spired the cov­er, Rich Scha­piro con­trasts the re­sponses of pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates to the shoot­ings in San Bern­ardino, Cali­for­nia, that left 14 dead. Demo­crats called for stricter gun-con­trol laws and the GOP can­did­ates did not. “In­stead,” Scha­piro wrote, “the Re­pub­lic­ans were preach­ing about pray­er.”

He’s fac­tu­ally, if only nar­rowly, cor­rect. In my opin­ion, Scha­piro also is on right on policy: When mass shoot­ings be­come, stat­ist­ic­ally, a daily oc­cur­rence, reg­u­lat­ing the pub­lic’s ac­cess to guns is not only re­spons­ible, it’s con­sti­tu­tion­al.

Polit­ic­al lead­ers who do noth­ing about this scourge must be held ac­count­able. So why does the Daily News cov­er make me wince?

First, Re­pub­lic­ans are do­ing more than pray­ing. They’re not do­ing nearly enough, from my vant­age point, but if we’re go­ing to move bey­ond verbal wars and ac­tu­ally start fix­ing this prob­lem, the first step is to ac­know­ledge the oth­er side’s point of view. Un­der­stand it. Re­spect it. Then ex­ploit it.

For ex­ample, couldn’t a smart group of gun-con­trol ad­voc­ates seize on the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation’s talk­ing point about men­tal health and work to­ward ma­jor re­forms of the U.S. sys­tem?

Polls show wide­spread sup­port, even among Re­pub­lic­ans, for small steps like clos­ing loop­holes that weak­en back­ground checks and al­low known ter­ror­ists to buy guns. Rather than sur­render to the NRA’s cyn­ic­al might, as Pres­id­ent Obama and Demo­crats did after the Sandy Hook shoot­ings, why not keep press­ing?

I re­fuse to be­lieve that for all of the smart and ded­ic­ated polit­ic­al strategists who sup­port com­mon-sense gun con­trol, there’s no way to build a move­ment that com­petes polit­ic­ally and cul­tur­ally with the NRA.

Which brings me to my second prob­lem with the Daily News cov­er. Not only does it at­tack GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates (again, I’m all for that), it in­sults any­body who op­poses gun con­trol and de­means their sym­path­ies for the vic­tims. It mocks their pray­ers.

That’s no way to win a cul­ture war.

Think about it. Mock­ery is the last re­sort of an in­sec­ure per­son, usu­ally a bully, who can’t get his or her way through more gentle per­sua­sion. Read this para­graph from a story in the lib­er­al Huff­ing­ton Post on why chil­dren bully their peers.

We at­tack oth­ers in or­der to feel good, or at least be­little someone as a way of mak­ing ourselves look bet­ter; find­ing fault or put­ting them down makes us feel su­per­i­or. This tends to hap­pen more when we are down ourselves, as misery loves com­pany; feel bad your­self and you in­vari­ably find fault in oth­ers.

Nailed it. The shoot­ings in Par­is, Col­or­ado, and Cali­for­nia made me miser­able. I’m down on hu­man­ity today. Down on my na­tion, down on its lead­er­ship, and down on a large per­cent­age of my fel­low cit­izens who re­fuse to bal­ance our right to bear arms against our right to reg­u­late them.

Misery loves com­pany, so why not rail about the im­pot­ency of pray­er? Be­cause it doesn’t work. And un­til we start elect­ing lead­ers who work to­geth­er to solve big prob­lems, pray­er may be all we’ve got.

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