Timing's right for Obama's gun control case
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President Barack Obama has carefully reframed the decades-old, us-versus-them debate over gun control by rebranding it as an effort to curb gun violence.
As Obama made clear Wednesday, the problem isn't law-abiding gun owners, and never has been.
The issue was how best to craft a reasonable national response to gun violence that, as Obama noted, has killed 900 Americans in the month since 20 first-graders and the adults who tried to save them were gunned down in Newtown, Conn.
The timing is right.
And so was Obama's decision to make the first move by signing a series of executive orders. They include expanding background checks for gun buyers. As the president said, that's a no-brainer.
So, too, is Obama's recommendation to fund efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to shed more light on the links between gun violence and violent video games.
In challenging Congress to act, Obama was trying to create a counterbalance to the National Rifle Association, which already has expressed confidence that lawmakers will do nothing about military-style assault weapons.
In putting more pressure on Congress, the president also tried to expand the range of participants in the gun-violence debate beyond the usual interest groups.
But reframing the debate and rallying national concern over gun violence hardly guarantee success. That will come only if Americans really are concerned enough to make their voices heard.
Polls show that a majority of Americans -- weary of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora and other shooting tragedies -- want responsible regulation.
The nation's shock and continued mourning over Newtown add to the imperative for change. That's a key reason why Obama, like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, moved quickly to control gun violence.
Is there a perfect solution to a complex problem that also touches on popular culture and the treatment of mental illness? No, as Cuomo's reforms in New York show.
Increasing state penalties for gun-related crimes is fine, for instance. But will mandating that mental health professionals report potentially dangerous patients discourage sick people from seeking treatment? If so, New York's new law -- now the strongest in the nation -- can and should be amended.
In New York, no side in the gun violence debate got everything. The state, for example, considered more stringent measures on handguns, which, because of Republican resistance, went nowhere.
In Washington, given the history of contentiousness between Obama and Republicans in Congress, compromise has been elusive on too many issues.
The nation needs a reasonable debate culminating in a reasonable national policy to curb gun violence. It's time.