Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Grade on Guns

Following the performative posturing that was yesterday's photo op between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on gun violence in Canadian cities, a salutary intervention by my colleague, David Chariandy, into the recent shootings in Scarborough and those who would seek to dismiss or de-complexify the politics of disenfranchisement and the economics of disadvantage that are always part of the equation of crime and/in racial minority communities. Click here to read more.

Then, too, following upon recent events in Colorado, and especially President Obama's rote platitudes and outright refusal to open up a conversation about gun control in the US, made me think how prescient a recent episode of Aaron Sorkin's amazing new series, The Newsroom, was. In it, the recently re-galvanized prime time anchor, Will McAvoy (played by the brilliant Jeff Daniels), decides to take on the gun lobby and their political and media pundit apologists. He does so by excerpting a series of clips in which people like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh decry the limits that Obama is surely going to place on Americans' right to bear arms; this is then followed by a scorecard from the Brady Campaign (an initiative begun by the wife of Jim Brady, the White House Press Secretary shot during John Hinkley's assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan) tallying the Obama administration's performance on a number of key issues related to tighter regulation of guns. On all counts, as McAvoy, points out, Obama receives a failing grade.

Michael Bloomberg, a mayor several thousand times smarter (and thinner and richer) than Rob Ford, tried to open up and honest and enlightened debate by suggesting that gun control become a major issue of the upcoming presidential campaign. But Obama refused to bite. I don't get it. Would alienating the gun lobby really lose him that many more votes? And how many more might he gain? I don't know if Sorkin, whose series is so-far pulling its plots from real-world headlines (most recently the Arab Spring), will catch up to or plan to intervene into this fall's presidential campaign. But thank heavens he's back on television and giving us, as with The West Wing, an imagined political discourse we might one day aspire to north and south of the 49th parallel.


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