Missing on Gun Control

Barack Obama offers hope and Hillary Clinton offers solutions, but they offer little of either on gun control. In the wake of the Feb. 8 shootings at Louisiana Technical College that took three lives, Hillary "Solutions" Clinton issued a statement that said, "I am saddened and my heart goes out to the victims and families of those affected today by the senseless crime that took place at Louisiana Technical College.

"Violence of any kind should not be tolerated and hits too close to home when it's directed at our young people. America has witnessed school violence before and it is always tragic. We must do all we can to prevent such acts and keep our children safe at home and in our schools."Last week, the day after the rampage that left six people dead at Northern Illinois University, Barack "Hope" Obama did a classic equivocation as if he knew the National Rifle Association was waiting to nail him in all the "red" states he has won. Obama said, "Today we offer them our thoughts and prayers, but we also have to offer them our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets, from our schools, from our neighborhoods and our cities. That is our duty as Americans."

In the same press conference he reassured gun owners by saying, "I think there is an individual right to bear arms, but it's subject to common-sense regulation."

But neither Obama nor Clinton, the Democratic nominees for president, have done "whatever it takes" to let us know how they would employ their common sense in the nation, which has the highest rate of gun deaths in the developed world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 30,000 people a year die in gun-related homicides, suicides, and accidents. There have been several shootings on K-12 and college campuses in the last year, most notably the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead. This is on top of mall rampages in suburban Chicago, Omaha, Kansas City, Mo., and Salt Lake City that took 21 lives and the recent assault at the Kirkwood, Mo., town hall where a man took five lives before being killed by police.

When pressed, such as in a debate or town hall or by news too horrific to ignore, Clinton and Obama have made obligatory statements, such as saying that urban deaths via guns is too much and you don't need an AK-47 to kill a deer. They talk about registries, better mental health checks, and copying Arnold Schwarzenegger's new microstamping program to match empty bullet casings to guns.

But it is clear from their websites that both would prefer to be under the radar. Clinton has nothing about gun control on her website. The only reference to guns on Obama's is his plan for sportsmen, which includes "Protecting Gun Rights." That section says, "As a former constitutional law professor, Barack Obama understands and believes in the constitutional right of Americans to bear arms. He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns for the purposes of hunting and target shooting."

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I shoot rifles when I am at Scout camps and that has nothing to do with waging a political assault for serious laws to deal with the flood of guns, particularly handguns that continue to flood our cities (and which the United States exports to the world). Yet both Democratic candidates seem like defeatists, even though up to two-thirds of Americans wanted stricter gun control laws in polls last year.

Clinton said this year in a Nevada debate, "Illegal guns are the cause of so much death and injury in our country. I am also a political realist and I understand that the political winds are very powerful against doing enough to try to get guns off the street, get them out of the hands of young people." Obama was asked at the same debate if he would license and register gun owners if he won the White House. Obama answered, "I don't think that we can get that done. But what I think we can do is provide just some common-sense reinforcement."

As Clinton talks realism and Obama talks common sense, the senseless killings continue, aided tremendously by the American access to guns. It is fine to be on the side of sportsmen. It is also time to show presidential leadership in protecting the American people at the mall, town hall, and school.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.

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