NYT Aggressively Pushing Gun Control in Massacre Coverage, Promises More to Come

The New York Times continues to helpfully lay out a path for Obama to order up gun control legislation in the wake of the tragedy at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Tuesday's lead story by Jennifer Steinhauer and Charlie Savage wasted no time in politicizing things: "Pro-Gun Democrats Signaling Openness to Limits; Town Starts the Mournful task of Saying Goodbye."

Demonstrating rapidly shifting attitudes toward gun control in the aftermath of a massacre in a Connecticut school, many pro-gun Congressional Democrats -- including Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader and a longstanding gun rights supporter -- signaled an openness Monday to new restrictions on guns.

White House officials remained vague and noncommittal about how President Obama would translate into action his soaring rhetoric Sunday in Newtown, when he appeared to presage an effort to curb access to guns. But many Democrats, including several from conservative states, said Congress should take up the issue next year, and one Senate chairman promised hearings.


Democrats seemed to be hoping to seize on the momentum from the shooting, in which 20 first graders were killed, and the resulting outrage and despondency of millions of Americans, to gingerly build a coalition of lawmakers who might be able to create some form of compromise limits on gun sales or types.


But others were not so sure. Other mass shootings have prompted waves of grief and resolve to take action, only to fade in relatively short order. Some advocates of gun control, like Joseph A. Califano Jr., a former adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson and cabinet secretary under President Jimmy Carter, suggested that Mr. Obama had just a brief opportunity to press his case while public attention was focused on television images of children clutching teddy bears.

Also on Tuesday Nicholas Confessore, Michael Cooper, and Michael Luo continued the paper's obsession over the public silence of the National Rifle Assocation: "Silent Since Shootings, N.R.A. Could Face Challenge to Political Power."

Even when the N.R.A. is silent -- as its Web site and Twitter feed remained Monday, after the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history -- it wields one of the biggest sticks in politics: A $300 million budget, millions of members around the country and virtually unmatched ferocity in advancing its political and legislative interests.

All three editorials on Tuesday were devoted to gun control, with the promise of more to come. The first compared anti-gun legislation to civil rights legislation, "Reason to Hope After the Newtown Rampage."

This is a country that has a history of facing tragedy and becoming better for it. It is a country that recoiled in horror at the Triangle shirtwaist factory and took steps to protect the lives of factory workers. It is a country able to rethink deeply seated beliefs -- as it did with discrimination against blacks and women and is now doing with antigay discrimination.

You know the Times is serious when it actually tells its left-wing allies to cool its gun-grabbing impulses for the good of the greater cause.

Those who believe, as we do, that the Second Amendment does not provide each American with an absolute right to own guns, must recognize that this position can alienate sympathetic listeners and is not likely to prevail any time soon. We must respect the legitimate concerns of law-abiding, safety conscious gun owners, in order to find common ground against unyielding ideologues.

The paper doesn't appear to recognize "a constitutional right to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defense," according to the second editorial, "Personal Guns and the Second Amendment."

When the Supreme Court struck down a ban on handguns by the District of Columbia in 2008, ruling that there is a constitutional right to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defense, the decision was enormously controversial in the legal world. But the court’s conclusion has generally been accepted in the real world because the ruling was in tune with popular opinion -- favoring Americans’ rights to own guns but also control of gun ownership.

The third editorial, "In Other Countries, Laws Are Strict and Work," made the standard argument that America is uniquely obsessed with guns and violence.

Experts from the Harvard School of Public Health, using data from 26 developed countries, have shown that wherever there are more firearms, there are more homicides. In the case of the United States, exponentially more: the American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries, which have much tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.


In Japan, which has very strict laws, only 11 people killed with guns in 2008, compared with 12,000 deaths by firearms that year in the United States -- a huge disparity even accounting for the difference in population. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed on Monday while ratcheting up his national antigun campaign, “We are the only industrialized country that has this problem. In the whole world, the only one.”

Japan is indeed very low on the list of gun homicide by country (which of course doesn't take into account other weapons like knives that can substitute for guns). But America isn't the highest either, coming in 12th place of about 75 countries according to statistics compiled under the auspices of the Organization of American States.