The White House’s Empty Gun Propaganda

It’s not that I think a national background check on gun purchases is a bad idea. Nor is that I think it’s really necessary to own a semi-automatic assault rifle or that the right to purchase one is intrinsic to the Second Amendment. I don’t think either of these things and based on that, I find the actual policy proposals of President Obama regarding guns to be fairly benign. What is troubling, if unsurprising, is what’s omitted and its solutions that might actually matter and it’s an honest conversation about all facets of gun violence in this country.

I know everyone’s heard the phrase “guns don’t kill, people kill” over and over, but does your fatigue with hearing the cliché make it any less true?  You’ve heard that criminals are not going to suddenly turn in their assault weapons because the government told them to. Well, isn’t the notion that criminals don’t obey laws pretty much an indisputable fact?

What if, instead of arguing about the instruments used by the killer, we started asking ourselves what possessed them to commit atrocities like Adam Lanza committed in Newton, and why they chose the targets they did.

Milwaukee Sherrif David Clarke made waves when he said it was time to bring armed guards into the schools. Why was he wrong?

We know Lanza’s mind was fed on a steady diet of high-violence video games. If we’re going to blame the gun he chose at the end of his journey into the Culture of Death, should we not also examine the role of the video game that was there at the beginning?

And why do deranged shooters, from Colorado to Connecticut pick the venues they do, from a movie theatre to a public school. Lanza didn’t try and go into a courthouse, where there are metal detectors and armed guards. Do schools merit any less protection?

I live near Milwaukee and the city’s sheriff, David Clarke, made waves when he said after the shooting that it was time to put armed guards in the school. He was condemned by the local political Left here, who accused him of exploiting the tragedy—although apparently the president of the United States having signing ceremonies with children in the background and using them as props doesn’t qualify as exploitation. But in the Milwaukee Public School System, at-risk schools have metal detectors in place and gun violence has decreased. Unlike gun control laws, there’s a cause and effect here that suggests a solution that really does work.

If the president of the United States wants a genuine national conversation about how to stop future tragedies like Sandy Hook, then all sides have to be brought in, and the actual results of policies have to be examined. It can’t be a feel-good exercise. By all means, include talk about background checks and assault weapons in the national conversation—I don’t hold to the view that says a national conversation is only about the opinions I agree with. But incorporate guns into a broader conversation about beefed-up security at schools and the culture of violence in Hollywood and the gaming industry. If a tragedy is worth solving, it’s worth taking some time to work everything through.

There’s saying that goes like this—when you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. The meaning is that when you put pressure on an object you bring out what’s inside. The tragedy of Sandy Hook put some pressure on the White House. And what came out was a one-sided conversation, insignificant proposals and hiding behind kids as props. Impressive Mr. President, very impressive indeed.

Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of



  • James Reyes

    It’s amazing how this website is sold-out to the right wing on every single issue. Just one I’d love to come here and find a surprise.

    • abadilla

      Well James, you don’t have to come in here to read anything. Is there anyone forcing you to get in here to read anything?

      • Paulspr

        Faithful Catholics absolutely should come here and see how our faith is being misrepresented. It ultimately harms all Catholics.

        • abadilla

          If they are “faithful” Catholics they are supposed to love CV since this web site has never written anything that contradicts the teaching of the Church, while it says plenty that contradicts Paul’s agenda.

    • Joe M

      Maybe you’ve made an incorrect assumption in thinking that it’s due to partisanship rather than over-lapping principle.

      • Paulspr

        Because the Pope or any bishop has called for citizens to be armed with semiautomatic weapons and for Walmart to sell them to the masses without any background checks? Please show me where that is a “catholic principle”.

        • Joe M

          No. I would say that it’s the principle of subsidiarity that links Catholicism to Liberalism proper (in contrast to liberalism-Pelosi).

    • Marvin Derks

      I’m assuming you’re a “liberal Catholic.” If so, you are the surprise and a pleasant one. I’d sure like to see a lot more liberal Catholics posting on this site since they are in the majority and could really make a difference sharing why they don’t blindly follow every old Catholic doctrine.

      • Msgr. Charles M. Mangan

        J.M.J. Mr. Derks, I don’t believe that it would really matter whether, as you stated, “a lot more liberal Catholics posting on this site . . . could really make a difference sharing why they don’t blindly follow every old Catholic doctrine.” While that may make for informative reading, the truth is that the Catholic Church’s Teaching doesn’t change based on who does or who does not adhere to it.

        • Marvin Derks

          That’s unfortunate because those who don’t adhere to all of Catholic teaching may have the truth on their side. If they don’t post and in other ways speak up, little will change.

  • Gail Deibler Finke

    There is plenty of published material about massacres like the one at Newtown. There are roughly the same number of them every decade; the only thing that’s changing is that the numbers of people being killed are generally getting higher (but not in every case). A lot is known about the type of person who commits these rare, rare crimes — from their psychology to their motives to what generally spurs them on (they are obsessive and secretive, they are cowards, and the more they read and see about similar crimes, the more they want to do them). It is completely, COMPLETELY different from the general causes of violent crime, and in particular gun crime.

    The laundry list of gun control methods the president proposes would have done nothing to prevent the Newtown massacre and will do very little, if anything to combat violent crime — which, in any case, has been falling steadily for years. To talk about the nation having to rise up as one and demand strict gun control while saying absolutely nothing about violence-soaked movies and television is hypocritical and cynical. I would argue that they are far worse than violence in video games, because they are nearly ubiquitous, and they make billions of dollars a year. You want a less violent society? Get the rap people off the air and out of the music business. Get television and movie companies to stop showing mutilated bodies, torture, and gruesome crimes. And stop talking about high-capacity magazines and start talking about the immense societal problem of fatherless kids being raised in poverty. The whole issue makes me very angry, because people on both sides of this issue are loud, but hardly any of them want to talk about the real causes of crime because having guns won’t do anything about them any more than not having guns would.

  • Nancy Janzen

    I grew up in Milwaukee during the fifties. All my heros shot up the west every afternoon and all day saturday, unless they were fighting with swords and bows and arrows. The problems started when heros became anti-heros. Violence in movies is violence for the sake of violence nothing more. According to media research council the top five movies last week had 65 violent incidents that had at least 185 victims.

    • Joe M

      Great point. Heroism has taken a turn for the sinister in our society. I think that is evident all the way down to cartoons.

  • David Hart

    How about “all of the above?” For Mr. Flaherty, this is a political discussion in the abstract. For me, on the other hand, the is all too real. I was shot – point blank – with a .45 in the hands of a prohibited purchaser. NO victim of gun violence (including me) has EVER mused “if only I had been carrying a [choose your favorite WMD] then this would not have happened.”

    In Dade County, alone, our citizens have enough weaponry to invade and occupy a small country. When, as a society, do we say “enough?”

    We aren’t seeking gun control. In contrast, we seek gun ACCOUNTABILITY. We need universal background checks AND we need a system to prevent lawfully obtained weapons from ending up in the hands of prohibited purchasers. As a society, we also need far better mental health care.

    • Paulspr

      And the NRA and its crazy fanatical members are going to fight this every step of the way. They forget that the second amendment contains the words “well regulated”.

      • abadilla

        “And the NRA and its crazy fanatical members.” What’s so crazy about defending the Second Amendment? Do you usually hurl insults at people you disagree with? What about disagreeing with the positions of the NRA rather than spewing venom at an organization just because you disagree with them?

        • Paulspr

          You aren’t defending the second amendment which clearly calls for regulations.

          • Anne

            A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free
            State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be

            What part of that “clearly calls for regulations”?

          • abadilla

            “Regulations” are already in the books. What bothers me about this issue is simple. Most of the folks that are calling for “regulations” don’t just want “regulations,” they want to get rid of the Second Amendment. To you and those who think like you, I highly recommend you take the legal means to eliminate the Second Amendment and see if you can.

    • Joe M

      David Hart. The evidence suggests that background checks do not prevent prohibited purchasers from obtaining guns and using them in crimes. What about a background check on Adam Lanza’s mom would have prevented Adam Lanza from carrying out the exact same crime?

      • Paulspr

        Where is your evidence?

        • Joe M

          I just gave you the most convincing evidence of all. Adam Lanza would not be subject to any of Obama’s proposals. He stole the guns from the owner. Remember?



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