Tomorrow night, President Barack Obama will hold a primetime “town hall” meeting on guns, broadcast live on CNN. Hosted by Anderson Cooper, the event will feature the president taking questions from the anchor and selected audience members at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
I’m going to venture a guess that the following five questions won’t be asked of the president on Thursday night—but I’d love to be proven wrong. Maybe Anderson can print out a copy of this and tuck it into his pocket before he goes live.
Mr. President, you’ve issued your call for more gun control by saying that the nation cannot, and should not, accept the “status quo” when it comes to public safety. In 2014, the nation saw the fewest homicides since 1968. Per capita, violent crime in 2014 was the lowest we’ve seen since 1970, and the per capita homicide rate is the lowest it has been in at least 55 years. One could make the case that our “status quo” has been a reduction in violent crime, at least for the past 20 years. During that time more than 10 million Americans have become licensed to carry a concealed firearm, and millions more have purchased their first gun. Can you explain why you believe that more guns lead to more crime, given that our nation has had exactly the opposite experience?
Mr. Presiden, tonight you left Washington, D.C., and drove across the Potomac River into the state of Virginia. You, of course, have a Secret Service detail to protect you, but most people don’t. Statistically, folks are a lot safer in Virginia than in Washington, D.C. Virginia also has far less restrictive gun laws than Washington, D.C. In fact, as our gun sales have soared, our gun violence has declined dramatically. Virginia is also a less violent place than Maryland, where new gun laws were enacted in 2013 and where this year Baltimore had its highest recorded homicide rate—ever. You’ve urged Congress to pass laws that look a lot like those in Maryland. Why should we not look at the laws of states like Virginia as a model for the nation instead?
Mr. President, you have complained about not being able to get gun-control legislation passed in Congress. One thing you could do, however, would be to nominate someone to run and reform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Currently the position is vacant, and there have been published reports that you will not name a replacement. Will you explain how public safety is being served by your decision not to nominate a replacement for B. Todd Jones? And if you will not nominate a permanent head of the ATF, would you support a measure to eliminate the ATF and instead allow the FBI to assume ATF’s responsibilities?
Mr. President, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, concealed-carry licenses are very popular among law-abiding residents in some of Chicago’s worst neighborhoods. Similarly, the Washington Post found residents of high-crime neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., to be the least supportive of a new gun ban in their city. Do you think those good people living in bad neighborhoods have the right to own and carry firearms for self-defense and defense of others? If not, could you explain to a single mother and Right-to-Carry permit holder on the south side of Chicago why she shouldn’t be allowed to bear arms to protect herself and her family?Instead, we’re likely to get exactly what the president wants—questions as soft as a baby blanket, and straw man arguments carefully constructed by Obama’s top advisers.
Mr. President, you and your spokespeople have said on many occasions that no new law is going to stop all acts of violence. Josh Earnest has even admitted that your proposed legislation, as well as your executive actions, would not have prevented any of the mass shootings that have taken place during your time in office, even had they been in place. Progressives like Mark Follman at Mother Jones and anti-gun activists like Elliot Fineman have declared your actions this week won’t have any real impact on public safety. We’ve also seen in recent weeks The New York Times, in a front-page editorial, declare that it is time to drastically reduce the number of guns in the country, “eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.” The New Republic published a piece calling for bans on gun ownership, including even most police officers. You yourself have advocated that we look to Australia’s gun confiscation as a legislative remedy. Yet the American public has been moving fairly consistently away from your position for the last couple of years. If “effective” gun control can’t take place without gun confiscation (compensated or otherwise), and the American people have no stomach or heart for such measures, why do you still cling bitterly to your support for anti-gun measures? Why don’t you, instead, encourage the growth and development of a culture of responsible gun ownership all across the country—not just in rural areas, but also in cities where guns are now carried only by police and criminals? Or do you think it’s better to try to change the culture to the point where Americans will accept or applaud the sweeping laws necessary to reduce the number of guns in this country?
Again, I doubt we’ll hear anything like this asked of the president, either by Anderson Cooper or the audience—even though there are millions of Americans around the country who would love to get a straight answer from President Obama on any one of these questions (and quite a few more). Instead, we’re likely to get exactly what the president wants—questions as soft as a baby blanket, and straw men arguments carefully constructed by Obama’s top advisers.
And in the hour or so that the president will spend talking up his anti-gun proposals, thousands of Americans will likely become new gun owners, sign up to take a gun safety or concealed-carry course, and send off their dues to the NRA in defense and support of their right to keep and bear arms.