One of the more disturbing news pictures I’ve seen recently was that of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., with an automatic handgun in her extended hand.
The photograph accompanied a story about efforts by Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, to gain support from reluctant members of Congress for universal background checks of gun purchases. Their approach is to persuade recalcitrant lawmakers who helped defeat that popular proposal earlier in the year to reconsider their action.
It seems, startlingly I think, despite the horrendous tragedy that befell Giffords — the killing of six people and her own fight to survive — she and her husband are not anti-firearms. To the contrary, they remain enthusiastic gun owners.
Well, if you can’t whip them, join them, no matter how it tarnishes the image.
How incredible that this once-vibrant and popular elected official, who is still far from being what she was, could even stand the sight of a lethal weapon without cringing, let alone fire one. One would think the knowledge that one of the bullets fired by Jared Lee Loughner that day in January 2011 took the life of an innocent child — 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green — should be enough to dedicate her life to repealing the Second Amendment. It would me.
As a viable strategy, the Giffords-Kelly campaign seems to me to be an exercise in futility. The four Democratic members of the U.S. Senate who abandoned President Barack Obama to adopt a quite reasonable bipartisan compromise obviously aren’t going to be influenced by Giffords and Kelly. After all, they weren’t swayed by the fact that the American public was overwhelmingly and enthusiastically in favor of the background-check provision.
I have no idea whether those who are leading the way to bringing some sanity into the fight to restrain the widespread distribution of firearms and help temper gun violence have any faith in the Giffords-Kelly strategy. It’s sort of like the person who is quite obviously a bigot saying some of his best friends are (name your choice of race or ethnicity).
Having attended a breakfast where Kelly pushed for adoption of strong measures for new gun control just before the vote that scuttled the whole affair, it is fairly obvious that the gun industry lobby is far more influential than a victim of their callous disregard for life.
This lack of sensitivity to the rights of victims was even more demonstrated by the inability of the Newtown, Conn., parents of the slain children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School to override the power of the National Rifle Association and other irresponsible interpreters of the Constitution to make it more difficult for psychopaths and criminals to get their hands on these weapons. It is, as my grandmother would say, a truly sorrowful situation.
The newspaper said that Kelly and his wife were preaching responsibility and not control. Does anyone think for a moment that the NRA, which opposes every effort in that direction, no matter how sensible, is a responsible organization?
Every American has felt compassion for the struggle Giffords and her husband have gone through. They were, until there were other victims of equally horrible incidents, the poster couple for the consequences of a national irresponsibility.
Now, I fear they have lost, at least for me, some of that luster. Kelly is a bright technocrat and a brave one, too. Obviously, his wife is enormously courageous. But this campaign is as misguided as the NRA’s continuing overlay ads on the front pages of the other Washington paper that profile fun-loving, responsible gun owners — including teenagers — and about as convincing, too.
Dan K. Thomasson, a Hoosier native and Franklin College trustee, is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.