From December — a Letter to the President

Mr. President, America is ready for the conversation you seem not to want to have.  On Friday, after a mad man shot and killed 20 children and 6 adults, your White House told us that it was not time to talk about gun control.  Yesterday, in your remarks at the Newtown prayer vigil, you promised action but seemed to define it as a conversation about what to do.  Watching you, I could see on your face the burden of speaking at yet another vigil.  And you have missed others — you didn’t go to Wisconsin following the killings at the Sikh Temple, and you didn’t have time to make sense of what happened in a mall in Oregon last week.  There just wasn’t time.  All of these deaths.  All of these mad men with guns.  Mr. President, it is not time for a conversation; it is time to act.  Enough already.

Like Tuscon, Aurora, and Portland, the killings in Newtown demonstrate our failure to meaningfully deal with the twin challenges posed by guns and mental illness.  We need to act on both fronts.  With respect to guns, immediate action is necessary.  There is no need on this earth for any one of us to own an firearm designed for use in a war, let alone an assault rifle.  Nothing in the Constitution is to the contrary.  If you could not buy a “Bushmaster” weapon, the criminal in Connecticut would not have had one.  This isn’t a tough question that requires conversation.  It’s an easy question that demands a quick and decisive answer.  The same is true with high-capacity clips.  We were “lucky” in Aurora that one such clip jammed and thus limited the damage the man with the gun could do in that theater.  Mr. President, if you want to avoid future vigils, this is what you have to do.

The men who wrote our constitution could not have imagined the world in which we now live.  They could not have known how good we would get at killing.  Nothing about the language of that document, or the time in which it was written, suggests that they wanted citizens to hold weapons for the purpose of killing one another.  The notion of a “militia” (the critical component of the Second Amendment) has to do with protection of a community.  Mr. President, please understand that the measures I am asking for here are about protecting our community.  You said it last night — we have to keep our children safe.  If we are going to do that, we have to take action against killing machines now.  The time for talking was over several massacres ago.  Enough already.

So too with regard to mental illness.  Parents whose children are ill (like Nancy Lanza) have too few resources available to them.  So too, people who are themselves ill have poorly-defined and underinsured routes to treatment.  In addition, the stigma of mental illness leaves too many people who are not well sitting in apartments or houses by themselves afraid or otherwise unable to request (or afford) the help they so clearly need.  Mr. President, this is a catastrophe and a threat to all of our safety.  Education and action are required, and they are required now.  We have reached the point where we know to alert authorities about abandoned bags in airports.  We need to get to the point where we alert authorities about those of us who are not doing so well, and where the  authorities know how to react in a manner that offers immediate help, and hope for healing.

I am angry about what happened on Friday.  I am angry because, notwithstanding all the death, Mr. President, your administration has done precisely nothing to control the spread of firearms in this country.  I am angry because we are, as a nation, victims of a system that fails to properly treat too many mentally ill people.  And I am angry because we have reached the point where somehow we seem to think that events like this just happen, that they are part of what we pay for freedom.  It’s nonsense.  Our government can make us safer.  We need a leader to make it happen.  Mr. President, it’s your job.  Stop talking around it, and get to work.   Enough already.

1/22/2013 — I need to say how encouraged I am by what the President is doing.  I am grateful for his willingness to fight the necessary battles.  If he prevails, a safer society will be his greatest legacy.

About Josh Davis

Josh is an employment lawyer, law teacher, blogger and radio commentator.
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