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Rob Horowitz: Sandy Hook Tragedy a Chance for Common Sense Gun Legislation

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The most moving part of President Obama’s remarks Sunday at a memorial service held at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was when he simply read aloud the names of the 20 young children and 6 school personnel that were gunned down there on Friday morning.
In the same remarks, Obama asked this important fundamental question, “Can we honestly say that we are doing enough to keep our children—all of them—safe from harm?”
Very few, if any of us, will answer “Yes.” As a result, in the wake of another and even more horrific killing that fits the all too familiar pattern of a ‘mentally disturbed young man’ using a high-powered gun firing many bullets per minute to mow down innocents, a window has now opened at least a crack for a national policy response that can lessen the number of future ‘Sandy Hooks’ and reduce the gun violence that still plagues our nation.

While it is the case that these kinds of well-publicized tragedies usually have only small and temporary impacts on public opinion, the scale of what occurred in Newtown, Connecticut combined with the fact that the victims were mainly young elementary school children is likely to strike a more lasting chord in American hearts and minds. Some early signs that this time it will be different is that strong pro-gun Senators and House members ducked interview requests over the weekend and Conservative commentators such as Britt Hume and William Bennett on network Sunday shows acknowledged a need for some regulation of assault weapons as part of an over-all comprehensive solution.
Still, achieving any real progress remains an uphill fight requiring a well-funded, sustained, strategically smart and focused public education and legislative campaign. Over the past 20 years, public opinion has moved steadily towards a pro gun rights position. In a Pew Research Center poll conducted this past April, 49 percent of Americans said it was more important to protect the gun rights of Americans, while 45 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership. Similarly, Gallup reports a majority of Americans prefer keeping existing gun laws or weakening them over putting in place stricter gun control laws. Contrast this with the early 1990s when nearly four out of five Americans were for stricter gun laws, according to Gallup.
Further, the National Rifle Association (NRA)--the most potent and effective lobbying and grassroots political organization in the nation—is already gearing up for an all out effort to block any new proposed restrictions on guns that emerge from this tragedy.
The best opportunity to succeed is to frame new legislative and executive action as a targeted policy response to limit “future Sandy Hooks’—rather than as a traditional gun control measure. The legislative proposal should combine specific steps to better identify and treat people with serious mental illnesses with narrowly tailored measures to strengthen and enforce the existing background check system for gun purchasers, ban the sale of semi-automatic and automatic weapons that can quickly fire multiple rounds, and close the gun show loophole that allows people at gun shows to buy guns without any background checks.
Success also depends on launching a well-funded and aggressive public education and lobbying campaign—one that builds a broad coalition that prominently features police and other members of law enforcement as well as gun owners who recognize the need for common sense measures. It will be important to repeatedly reassure people that nobody’s Second Amendment rights will be taken away. With this kind of campaign, the President and Congressional members such as Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the chief sponsor and advocate for the now expired Assault Weapons Ban who is planning to introduce new legislation on the first day of the New Congress, will be better able to persuade their colleagues that the time to act is now before we bury more of our kids.
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

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Joseph Bernstein

The gun laws in RI are adequate and reasonable now.People like Horowitz who have an irrational hatred and fear of gun owners are suddenly pouring out of the woodwork and they already have deceptive tactics at hand to disarm law abiding people while supporting early release of dangerous convicts and completely ignoring the mentally ill who have been de-institutionalized and are wandering about un monitored and un medicated in many cases.
The tragedy in Coonecticut does raise a lot of legitimate questions about when we need intervention for potentially dangerous situations but that shouldn't translate into a knee jerk assault on gun owners.
RI has had only one mass fatal shooting-and that was perpetrated by a police officer who would have been armed in any case.

Joseph Bernstein

It should also be noted that some of the state's most heinous murderers such as Craig Price,Raymond Lassor,William Sarmento,Hightower,and the Woonsocket serial killer whose name escapes me all committed their crimes without firearms.But that rational line of thought is too difficult for lockstep liberals to follow.

David Beagle

Why do liberals seem to knee-jerk to gun laws as the culprit before ever looking into the mental illness, or cultural aspects of incidents like these? There are certainly more common denominators to these violent incidents than just the gun.

Joseph Bernstein

Because people like Horowitz are raised to have a fear of guns and people who own them.Horowitz ran campaigns for Myrth York.I can't explain it better than that.Horowitz and his ilk just can't stop themselves from meddling.

Art West

As reporters such as Lou Dobbs have noted, Chicago has the nation's strictest gun control legislation -- yet gun murders remain the nation's highest.

Another interesting fact is that states that allow concealed carry experience fewer gun crimes -- the criminals know that their prey may be able to fight back.

And mentally ill people are simply wildcards whose actions can never be fully explained or controlled.

Trying to put forward one's agenda while emotions run high is no way to pass legislation that may have unintended consequences.

James Berling

Instead approaching a problem with a pre-conceived solution—gun legislation—maybe it's time for a little soul searching?

Sure, look at guns. Are we doing enough to protect the innocent? Maybe there are some things we should look at. But equally, if not more importantly, let's look at the expanding culture of violence in this country. It permeates our society and unfortunately it seems to be embraced and promoted by this President and the left. Obama regularly invites "artists" and activists who advocate the most vile hatred and violence in the guise of art. Remember Common at the White House, and more recently Psy whose concert Obama is scheduled to attend on the 21st? Psy's obscenely violent lyrics:

“Kill those f–ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives.”
“Kill those f–ing Yankees who ordered them to torture.”
“Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers.”
“Kill them all slowly and painfully.”

But Obama and the left routinely accept these folks, routinely honor them with invitations to the White House. What kind of message does this send?
Maybe it's time for the President and the left to do some soul searching?

Art West

Good point, James.

Add to the list the unending violence that pours out of Hollywood and saturates our culture.

Odd Job

What new laws would have prevented Sandy Hook?

Mateo C

there are already many, many gun laws in place. this is a mental health issue, and that needs to be looked at with more scrutiny. if anything, the weapons used should have been locked up better in order to be kept away from this guy.

i wish we could go back to last Thursday so badly, but believe that a weapons ban will not do anything to prevent this in the future.

Ford Renner

Mr Berling, I guess you missed Psy's heartfelt and complete apology and explanation for the lyrics you cited.


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