Littwin: Hillary Clinton blasts gun-violence, forcing the debate in 2016

It’s a rare occasion when anything significant actually happens during a presidential campaign, so you might want to note the date. All it took to get there was another tragedy, an angry White House address, and the pressure of a closer-than-expected primary race.

But, whatever it took, Hillary Clinton has basically guaranteed that gun violence, and how or whether to address it, will play a central role in the 2016 election.

She has called for a “national movement,” which she volunteered to lead, against the NRA’s influence on gun laws. She offered up a fairly ambitious gun-control plan, which includes — Obama-style — executive action to deal with the gun-show loophole on background checks (yep, it’s still there).

I know the story is that Clinton has finally found a way to get to the left of Bernie Sanders, who, as a senator from Vermont, argues that gun control isn’t exactly an issue there. That may not help him explain, though, to primary voters why he voted against the Brady Bill or for a bill protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits. And, as The New York Times noted, Sanders drew another stunning crowd of 20,000 in Boston over the weekend, but it took him over an hour to mention the massacre in Oregon.

He has called not for a “national movement” on guns, but to “get beyond the shouting,” which may not be the answer his young, activist audience is hoping for.

Will this change the direction of Bern-mentum? Sanders will almost certainly put out his own gun-control plan, which will probably not be too dissimilar from Clinton’s. He’ll get better on gun violence, as he did on #blacklivesmatter. And guns don’t change the fact that Sanders has captured the audience on income inequality and authenticity and trustworthiness. And what about Joe Biden? Isn’t it time to ask again about Biden?

In any case, that’s just where the story begins. The question is where it ends. Stuff happens, and it looks as if Democrats have basically put gun control on the presidential ballot.

Something has certainly changed. The shootings feel like they’ve come so quickly, so relentlessly, so inexplicably. In the aftermath of the mass shooting at Umpqua, Barack Obama made the unexpected argument that we should be politicizing these shootings — that it’s the only way to move the issue. And Clinton followed that with a four-point plan, including closing the so-called Charleston loophole, preventing domestic abusers from buying guns and repealing the gun-manufacturers immunity law – yes, the same one Sanders voted for.

If it seems like it’s been a while since Democrats were pushing gun laws, that’s because it has been a while. Democrats have been on the defensive on guns for nearly as long as the NRA has been on the offensive — or at least since the Bush-Gore race in 2000 when some must have thought that Columbine would change the political equation.

We’re not so naive now. Obama tried to shift the focus to modest legislation after Newtown and the horror of 20 murdered first-graders, but Congress, astonishingly, wasn’t interested in doing anything about assault-style rifles or the handguns that take down children on the streets of Chicago. And if a few states, including our own, took on the issue, the backlash hit hard enough that the movement, if you could call it that, quickly ended.

The argument that Republicans will face in 2016 is that law-and-order conservatives have, in the words of Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, allowed themselves to “be dominated by gun extremists who deride every gun measure that might make our country a little bit safer — no matter how many mass killings we have.”

But how will that argument work in real time versus the gun-grabber argument? Can Democrats really put together a national movement to challenge the NRA, which has its movement already in place?

The Republican response to the mass shootings is generally that it’s a mental-health problem and that if people are determined to kill people, they’ll find a way. I know, it sounds as if they’re arguing that if you take away guns, there’d be a bunch of half-crazed serial knife throwers on the loose. Laws wouldn’t stop mass killers, because, well, they just wouldn’t. These are not serious answers, but serious answers are apparently not allowed.

There are serious studies, if only a few. But it doesn’t seem to matter if one shows that states with more gun laws have fewer homicides and that, conversely, states with fewer gun laws have more homicides. But it does explain, I guess, why Congress passes laws making it difficult to collect data on guns.

Here’s what Donald Trump, the man who has an answer for every problem, said on Meet the Press when asked what he would do about mass killings: “You know, no matter what you do, guns, no guns, it doesn’t matter. You have people that are mentally ill. And they’re gonna come through the cracks.”

You’d think if they were coming through the cracks that Trump, of all people, could tell you how to mend the wall.

Photo credit: Jasper Nance, Creative Commons, Flickr.


  1. This may be one of your best quotes ever: “I know, it sounds as if they’re arguing that if you take away guns, there’d be a bunch of half-crazed serial knife throwers on the loose. Laws wouldn’t stop mass killers, because, well, they just wouldn’t. These are not serious answers, but serious answers are apparently not allowed.” Thank you for continuing to speak up.

  2. Bernie Sanders: Focus On Mental Health, Gun Control Measures

    Bernie Sanders has voted in favor of expanded background checks for commercial sales with an exemption for sales between “family, friends, and neighbors”. He has also voted in favor of a national instant background check system.

    “We need strong sensible gun control, and I will support it. But some people think it’s going to solve all of our problems, and it’s not. We have a crisis in the capability of addressing mental health illness in this country. When people are hurting and are prepared to do something terrible, we need to do something immediately. We don’t have that and we should have that,” Sanders said.

    Watch Bernie talk about gun control on Youtube:

  3. Hillary also proposed the formation of a new organization of second amendment supporters that believe in sensible legislation re gun control..This would isolate the NRA crazies and partner them with Tea Partiers while serving to diminish their numbers with an alternative organization..Good campaign strategy and a significant step in the right direction

  4. Let’s start by disabusing readers of the idea that Mr. Littwin’s concern over gun violence is genuine. It isn’t. Not even close.

    He is interested in gun violence only as an issue he hopes will further his left-of-everything politics.

    There is a very interesting quote from an article on gun control in the left-leaning written by Dylan Matthews:

    “But let’s be clear about precisely what kind of (political) choice this is. Congress’s decision not to pass background checks is not what’s keeping the US from European gun violence levels. The expiration of the assault weapons ban is not behind the gap. What’s behind the gap, plenty of research indicates, is that Americans have more guns. The statistics are mind-blowing: America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population but almost half of its civilian-owned guns.

    Realistically, a gun control plan that has any hope of getting us down to European levels of violence is going to mean taking a huge number of guns away from a huge number of gun owners.”

    Although it’s highly unlikely that Mr. Littwin will answer these questions I’ll ask them anyway:

    – Does Mr. Littwin agree with Mr. Matthews’ assessment on what will be required to reduce gun violence in America to European levels?

    – Is Mr. Littwin advocating gun control or gun confiscation?

    If you look at the numbers collected by Mother Jones, less that three hundred Americans have been killed in “mass” killings since 9/11. So why does the media-driven conversation turn to gun violence only when these “statistically rare” mass murders occur?

    Put another way, what should be of greater concern to Americans: the less than 300 killed in mass murders since 9/11 or the other “tens of thousands” President Obama claims have been killed by gun violence?

    And why does the media attention given these tens of thousands of lives claimed by gun violence never reach the level of attention given mass killings? Why is the media perspective on gun violence so narrow? Politics?

    In an article concerning gang violence in Chicago the Huffington Post wrote: “In 2013, nearly 2,000 people in Chicago were shot and 329 were killed.”

    So, the number of people shot and killed by gangs in one city in one year exceeds the total number of people killed by mass murders since 9/11.

    Do you want to take a wild guess at the number of columns Mr. Littwin has written for the Colorado Independent that were devoted to gangs and gun violence? Hint #1: It rhymes with Nero. Hint #2: It’s the same number of columns Mr. Littwin has written where law enforcement officers are victims of gun violence.

    Why is Mr. Littwin’s perspective on gun violence so parochial and so skewed?

    New York’s Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, like President Obama, believes gun control should be politicized and has suggested that Congressional Democrats shutdown the government if the gun control issue is not resolved. That’s right, shutdown the government!

    What does the risk-averse Mr. Littwin think about that?

    All I hear is crickets.


    “The new (YouGov/CBS News 2016 Battleground Tracker) poll finds Sen. Sanders with 52% support among Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, while former Secretary of State Clinton, long considered the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, receives 30%.”

    Courage enlarges, cowardice diminishes resources. In desperate straits the fears of the timid aggravate the dangers that imperil the brave. – Christian Nestell Bovee

    “The resistance of liberals in the media to new ideas was enormous. Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true! Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers. It’s so simplistic!” – Camille Paglia Salon

    “I support anyone’s right to be who they want to be. My question is: to
    what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?” – Dave Chappelle

    “This new Dream, seeking revolutionary change in how America works, is not only impossible, but based on the faulty assumption that black Americans are the world’s first group who can only excel under ideal conditions. We are perhaps the first people on earth taught to consider it insulting when someone suggests we try to cope with the system as it is—even when that person is black, or even the President.” – John McWhorter, Daily Beast

    “..Bernie(Sanders)is the most benign of summer flings.” Mike Littwin

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Folds of Honor
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2015

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