Your daily newspaper and your favorite news websites have been dominated recently by news about guns and gun control. Since the awful shootings at the Sandy Hook elementary school, where a heavily armed lunatic murdered more than two dozen children and adults, our political leaders have been talking a lot about firearms and what we can do to prevent another horrible massacre.
In an odd way, the opportunity to talk about guns must be a kind of welcome relief for our politicians, because the gun control debate lets each party retreat to safe, time-honored positions that appeal to their bases. Democrats understand that most of their voters will support attempts to license gun owners, register all weapons, and restrict or even ban ownership of “assault weapons” or other firearms. Republicans, on the other hand, know that their supporters will cheer vigorous defenses of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and stalwart opposition to overly zealous attempts to regulate gun ownership.
I suspect that all of the talk, talk, talk about guns is, in part, a means of distracting voters from other pressing issues. Members of Congress and the Obama Administration would rather stay snugly in their gun debate comfort zones than deal with the spending, tax, and budget deficit issues that have far more long-term significance for our country. With all the talk about guns, how much discussion of those core economic issues have you heard recently? When those issues are in the forefront, and feet are being held to the fire, there are no easy, pat answers and no rote appeals to political bases.
As terrible as the Sandy Hook shootings were, we shouldn’t let our political leaders divert our attention from the federal debt time bomb and other issues that are restraining our economy. Yesterday we received an unpleasant reminder of these problems when it was announced that gross domestic product dropped in the fourth quarter of last year. Imagine: our economy actually shrank during the hottest shopping season of the year. It’s time we remind Congress and the President of the paramount need to focus on the hard budget and economic issues, before our economy plunges into another recession.