Responsibility Begins at Home

Another day, another school shooting, this time in an Atlanta middle school. Not many details yet.

The video is a segment from last night’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, and the speaker is David Wheeler, father of Ben Wheeler, a 6-year-old who died in the Sandy Hook massacre. This was testimony in front of the Connecticut legislature.

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Although I’m not sure all of his suggestions would be helpful, one thing he said that I want to second is that it’s not enough to stop the sale of firearms to mentally unstable people. Because at the point that such a person begins a shooting spree, it doesn’t matter if the gun was purchased legally, or illegally, or stolen, or borrowed, or found laying around somewhere. What’s needed is not just to stop sales to someone who might pose a risk to the public, but to block his access to guns, period.

I’ve already said that I think a National Registry of Crazy People is a terrible idea. And as this article points out, most of the time the perpetrators do not fit any profile of a deranged killer until they start killing.

My idea is that if you own a firearm, and you keep it loaded where someone beside yourself has access to it, you are criminally responsible for whatever is done with that gun. Including homicide. Accidents with guns ought to also incur criminal charges. We keep hearing stories about people who shoot themselves, or their children, accidentally because they didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber — well, you should have known. It is your responsibility to know that.

And I’m talking stiff penalties, I’m talking jail time, I’m talking ruinous fines. Make examples of a few people, and maybe some of these meatheads will learn to check for bullets in the chamber, or stop keeping firearms where their angry adolescent sons can easily get them. And don’t get me started on what should be done with someone who leaves a loaded gun where a small child can reach it.

WaPo Still Running from the “L” Word

Political commentary that makes me wonder if anyone at WaPo has a measurable IQ (from about five days ago, but I’m just now noticing it) — Zachary A. Goldfarb writes,

If there was one word that was used most often to describe President Obama’s second inaugural address Monday, it was “liberal.” Obama supposedly tossed away the post-partisan efforts of his first term and embraced big government, fully committing himself to the cause of gay rights and showing a Gore-like dedication to the climate-change fight.

Yet the next day, the White House expressed surprise at the notion that the president’s speech amounted to an affirmation of liberalism. Press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that he rejected “the idea that this was an ‘ism’ speech.” He added, “It’s on behalf of ideas that represent who we are as Americans.”

In a narrow sense, Carney was right. Opinion polls show that on almost all of the major positions Obama espoused in his speech — entitlements, immigration, climate change and same-sex marriage — a majority of Americans agree with him.

By that measure, Obama did not advance a liberal agenda.

Or maybe, dimwit, by that measure we see that Americans are coming back around to embracing liberalism, the way they used to. Let us consider the words of President John F. Kennedy —

President John F. Kennedy on being a liberal (via)…

“I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies.

What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label “Liberal?” If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

Deal with it, Goldfarb.

BTW, here’s my new roomie, Sadie, courtesy of Bill Bush. Someday maybe I’ll get a photo of her when one of us is no t moving.