Excerpted from The New York Times:
This is a country that has a history of facing tragedy and becoming better for it. It is a country that recoiled in horror at the Triangle shirtwaist factory and took steps to protect the lives of factory workers. It is a country able to rethink deeply seated beliefs as it did with discrimination against blacks and women and is now doing with anti-gay discrimination.
Americans are ready to shoulder burdens as we did after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by accepting increased security when we travel and military actions we might previously have avoided. The current atmosphere in Washington where lawmakers looked at the challenge of a struggling economy and dissolved into partisan bickering is not the old normal, and there is no reason we should settle for it as the new normal.
So, we have found real reason to find hope in the determination to effect change that followed the murders of 20 children and seven adults in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. President Barack Obama said it unequivocally Sunday the enormity of controlling the culture of guns and the epidemic of gun violence "can't be an excuse for inaction." Yes, Obama has said that before, after two previous mass killings during his tenure, and did nothing. The hurdles are just as big as they were before, but there are signs people are willing to rethink their views.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Warner of Virginia, Democrats with "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association, have said it is time to talk about restrictions on gun sales and ownership. Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman and now morning host on MSNBC, said Monday that the Newtown killings have changed his mind about gun control.
And some lawmakers are preparing to take action, such as state Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who plans to submit a bill in the next Congress that would update and tighten the loophole-riddled 1994 assault weapons bill she wrote and that remained law until it expired in 2004.
Those who believe, as we do, that the Second Amendment does not provide each American with an absolute right to own guns, must recognize that this position can alienate sympathetic listeners and is not likely to prevail any time soon. We must respect the legitimate concerns of law-abiding, safety conscious gun owners, to find common ground against unyielding ideologues.
The challenge for the anti-gun-control side was put well by Scarborough, who said Monday that he had changed his view of the gun debate as a question of individual rights versus government control, and now sees it as an issue of public safety. There are no rights granted by the Constitution that are so absolute that they erase concerns about public safety and welfare.
There is reason, this time around, to hope that both parties can shake off the NRA.