Perhaps one good thing can come from the Newtown, Conn., schoolhouse massacre. Perhaps, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out this week, the National Rifle Association can be shown to be the hot air balloon it truly is -- looming large in the sky but easily taken out by a well-aimed dart.
Political reaction to the school shooting tragedy ranged from the heroic to the hysterical to the heartless. Bloomberg came across as a hero, strutting his credentials as the nation's most credible yet outspoken politician on gun control.
On the other end was God Squad affiliate and true believer, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He mouthed an extraordinarily wacky missive about the Newtown school having been targeted because God was "systematically" banished from the public schools. He then tried to walk that one back and appeared even goofier.
Then there was the heartless --- nothing but gutless -- silence from the NRA for days after the slaughter. This, from the lobby group that made it possible for private citizens to purchase semi-automatic weapons.
Could the NRA be trying to avoid being seen as the murderer's lobby? Now, back to the hero. Bloomberg has been waging what has been, until now, an almost one-man campaign for gun control. He formed a group called Mayors Against Illegal guns. He formed a new super PAC called Independence USA this year and spent less than $9 million, according to the National Journal, supporting pro-gun control candidates, "a pittance in the post-Citizens United world.
"But his record -- three wins, three losses, and a bonus win for an independent Senate candidate he supported through another super PAC -- is impressive," National Journal continued. "The context here must be Karl Rove's Crossroads empire, created in 2010, which spent $300 million this year to little effect."
Bloomberg wants, among other things, to end the absolutely outlandish practice of allowing anyone to walk into a gun show and buy a weapon, or an arsenal of weapons, without a background check. His group also wants, again according to the Journal, "to ban gun sales to people on the terrorist watch list, ban sales of high-capacity ammunition magazines, and repeal a law that makes it harder for authorities to track guns and criminals."
This is tepid, as far as I'm concerned.
It's sad to say, but even a complete ban on all weapons, handguns included, would take decades if not centuries to enforce. There are reportedly more than 300 million weapons in circulation in the United States. Gunman Adam Lanza used an AR-15 -- a lightweight, 5.56 mm, magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifle with a rotating-lock bolt -- and sales of the weapon skyrocketed after the shooting incident.
Americans, apparently fearful that the weapon would be outlawed, raced to their local gun stores and gun shows to buy one. There are some 1.5 million in circulation in this country and a magazine devoted solely to this weapon. How sickening!
The NRA has, according to its website, 4.3 million members. There are 314 million Americans. Polls show, as they often do, a spike in support for gun-control laws. A CBS News poll released this week found 57 percent of Americans saying gun control laws should be "made more strict." That is the highest it's been in a decade and 18 points higher than in a decade.
It's time we break the stranglehold that 4.3 million people have on our nation's gun laws. Of course, not all gun-owning Americans belong to the NRA. But clearly the Newtown shooting has grabbed each of us by the throat and made clear what a minority of Americans have been saying for some time. It is time to stop our loony approach to weapon ownership.
Not only should an assault weapons ban be reinstated, we also should overturn all concealed-carry laws, among many other limitations. If we don't, nobody in this country has any right to act surprised at the next mass shooting.
Bonnie Erbe writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service and is host of "To the Point" on PBS.