Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 23, 2018 (posted February 27, 2018)
Mr. President: That there is a change in the air is evident this time. Since the mass
school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, there have been
demonstrations by school kids, their parents and others, confrontations of politicians
including the president, and a general feeling that enough is enough.
The most prominent opposition to gun control, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is
not quite able to stir up its supporters this time. Its president, Wayne LaPierre, got
only a muted response to his frequent line, "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun
is with a good guy with a gun."
Donald Trump's response to the crisis certainly takes that page from LaPierre's book;
Mr. Trump wants to arm school teachers. In this 'Wild West' scenario, Trump's
schools become a battlefield. Guns for teachers, if they actually agree to them, will
be headline news. And forewarned, prospective shooters are more than likely to wear
body armor (as a previous mass shooter did) to be protected from teachers' pistols. It
also invites the terrible possibility some school teacher, disturbed of course, shoots
up her own class.
No, Mr. Trump (and Wayne LaPierre) the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to
make sure he does not get one. Australia has already proven that proposition. After
a mass shooting killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the country was in deep
shock. The response was strict gun control including the mandatory buyback of
existing firearms through which 650,000 weapons were destroyed. The facts speak
for themselves: from 1978 to 1996, Australia had 13 mass shootings; since 1997, it
has had none.
Look at the United States. With 5 percent of the world's population, it has 31 percent
of global mass shooters 42 percent of the world's privately owned guns. the Second
Amendment is likely to preclude laws comparable to those enacted in Australia.
There remains the slim, very slim, possibility of the courts reviewing the relevance of
the Second Amendment in an age of heavy tanks, artillery, even nuclear weapons.
Still, more can be done than has been so far at the Federal level.
After Sandy Hook, where a gunman in 2012 killed 20 little children and 6 adults at an
elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, protests and outrage led to attempts to
pass laws in Congress. But the NRA lobby was much too powerful and they were
If Australia's response stopped mass shootings, what about the U.S.? Since Sandy
Hook there have been over 1600 mass shootings -- a mass killing is defined as a
single incident causing the death of three or more persons. Moreover, these
comprise less than 2 percent of firearm deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) estimates 33,594 gun deaths in 2014 of which 263 were in a mass
running at almost one a day, these mass shootings are so common as to mostly go
unreported unless the number of dead are high enough, or the incident has
community impact, or the perpetrator carries a whiff of terrorism because of his faith.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump's wet-noodle response, which he characterized as strong
and others might consider risible, will do next to nothing ... until another mass
shooting presses the replay button and the Kabuki dance is repeated.