Updated: February 20, 2013 6:07AM
Abusing a president is fair game. It is practically an American pastime.
Abusing his spouse is usually tasteless, but spouses have become political surrogates, and they have to expect a little rough and tumble now and again.
But abusing a president’s children? Practically daring the harmful, the hateful and the hideous in our society to make them targets? How shameless do you have to be to do that?
Ask the NRA.
That organization has been running a Web video verbally targeting the president’s two daughters. I do not suggest the NRA actually desires them to come to harm. I am (reasonably) sure nobody in the upper reaches of the NRA is that morally depraved.
But the NRA is using its members’ dues not to protect the rights of hunters, which is what the NRA used to do, but to run a video twisting the Secret Service protection of the president’s children to aid those who make a fortune by manufacturing and selling guns.
The ads says that armed guards protect the president’s children but that because the president thinks armed guards in every school might not be a sensible idea, he is an “elitist hypocrite.”
In point of fact, the president has never said he absolutely opposes armed guards in every school.
What he said on “Meet the Press” recently was, “I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools.”
He is skeptical. I am skeptical. Columbine High had an armed guard, and 12 students and one teacher were still murdered.
What I am not skeptical about is that the families of our presidents need Secret Service protection.
What I am not skeptical about is that raising the question of the safety of the president’s daughters was not just repulsive, but dangerous. Yes, the president’s daughters live in a mansion called the White House, and they have servants and their own bowling alley and get to go around in (armored) limousines.
But come on. They are kids. They are 14 and 11. Do you think they really like the protective bubble they have to live in?
And do you think they are not at special risk requiring special protection?
“To go so far as to make the safety of the president’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.
I would call Carney’s statement downright restrained.
A few hours later, Obama and Joe Biden announced their own ambitious gun control plans. Some parts of it can be accomplished immediately by the president through executive action (though keep in mind that what one president does, a later president can undo).
And some can be accomplished only by Congress, a body so dysfunctional that it has become an elephants’ graveyard of hope.
But the president made one thing clear: What he wants to do about guns, he wants to do for America’s children.
“This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe,” he said. “This is how we will be judged.”
He said he believes the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. “I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen,” he said. “I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.”
There is nothing in the president’s proposals that would keep a hunter from hunting or a target shooter from shooting. Changing a gun magazine every 10 rounds is not a burdensome task.
Having a background check for people who buy guns at gun shows is not a unique abridgement of personal freedom. Their personal “freedom” is already abridged. And by gun shows. I know this because I have been checking the websites of gun shows, and a lot seem to have the same rule: No loaded guns allowed.
“No loaded firearms and no loaded magazines are permitted in any Crossroads gun show,” one site said. “Your personal safety is our number one priority while you are at the show.”
Personal safety? I thought loaded guns created personal safety.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, said a week after the massacre at Newtown Elementary School in Connecticut.
So I don’t get it. What if a “bad guy” with a loaded gun, who had become deranged by playing a video game (which is one of the NRA’s greatest fears) barged into a gun show? Wouldn’t we want a whole bunch of “good guys” with loaded guns to stop him?
So why disarm people at gun shows?
Because “personal safety” is the No. 1 priority, that’s why.
And that’s why we have to reduce the easy availability of guns in our society, and ban military-style assault weapons and large-capacity gun magazines.
As Obama said Wednesday: “If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsman, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say: ‘Enough. We’ve suffered too much pain, and care too much about our children to allow this to continue,’ then change will come.”
For some, it will come too late. For some, it has already come too late.
But enough is enough.