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Susan Estrich
5 Feb 2016
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Politics and Personal Responsibility


In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, every politician who has me on their email list — and there are many, on both sides of the aisle — has been filling my inbox. All of the messages begin with the requisite expression of shock and horror, the business of sending out our hearts and prayers to those who mourn. Then the gun control advocates insist that now is the time for congressional action, and the opponents caution that no legislation is going to stop people (not guns) from killing.

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg remembers that after he suffered painful losses in the past year, friends repeatedly cautioned that "it was no time to make big decisions." I've heard the same advice. Were I speaking to one of the bereaved family members, I might well say the same thing.

But I'm not. I'm talking to political interest group leaders, to elected officials, to people like you and me, whatever side of the aisle we may find ourselves on.

Some years ago, I was booked to appear on one of those crossfire-like shows with a senior NRA official. The booker, embarrassed, called to cancel me because the NRA official (the one they really wanted) refused to go on against me. Why? I'd never met the man, never called him names, never attacked him in a personal way. She didn't know and hung up quickly.

When I watched the segment later, it was perfectly clear. He didn't want to appear with someone like me: a realist, someone desperately in search of reasonable steps in the middle, actions that would not necessarily divide the nation between gun-lovers and gun-haters. He preferred the "whack ball on the left" who is a much easier target.

That is how the gun debate has unfolded in America.

After a weekend of shared pain, after brilliant words by the president, the Tuesday papers report that with the fiscal cliff looming and a commitment to seek bipartisan immigration reform, with polls showing the country favoring new legislation but only by margins of 54 percent to 43 percent, there are no specific proposals President Obama intends to push through Congress, and the NRA is not backing down.

As the days pass, as it becomes clear that one proposal or another would not necessarily have stopped Newtown (he didn't, after all, buy the gun at a gun show; it wasn't a flawed background check that allowed him to purchase it at a gun store), the danger is that what happened after the horrible movie shootings in Aurora, Colo., and after the tragic shooting of Gabby Giffords (and the murder of those unlucky enough to be outside the market with her) will happen here: paralysis.

Obama has a unique advantage that he didn't have two months ago or two years ago.

Yes, he needs to convince the Republican Congress to pass other important measures. But there are steps he can take without congressional action, like using government funds to improve databases that do not include information about mental instability. There are former opponents of gun control legislation, like Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who are ready to lead a fight for tighter controls. And the president, in his second term, needs to worry about getting measures through Congress and not getting re-elected. It makes a difference.

We are never going to ban law-abiding, stable and well-trained citizens from owning guns. I have never understood why that is not enough for gun advocates, who always claim (and I have no reason to think otherwise) they are just that.

But why assault weapons? Who needs an assault weapon for self-defense? Police officials are almost uniformly against private ownership of such weapons. If we can't get all the weapons on the street, why not regulate the sale of ammunition? People who have a right to own guns have nothing to fear from fulsome background checks. If you can't get a license to drive a car without proof that you know how to do so and understand the rules of the road, why a gun? There are moderate steps to be taken that need not divide us into warring camps.

At the end of the day, none of these steps may be enough to prevent the next Newtown, although they may help. At the end of the day, each of us needs to take personal responsibility, however difficult that may be. Personal responsibility means never allowing a gun to get into the hands of a troubled person, and admitting your father or your son needs help and getting it for him. It means taking responsibility for your ownership of a dangerous weapon.

In political debates, conservatives claim ownership of "personal responsibility." Now is the time to show it.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



12 Comments | Post Comment
Gunning down and murdering children – if environment is the problem what kind of environment could ever make a person, even an insane person, believe such an act is acceptable for any reason?

But restricting access of law abiding citizens to guns is a violation of the rights given to us by God (or our creator) and recognized in the US constitution.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their SAFETY and Happiness.

Our creator gave us life and a brain, and thus, the right, to protect our life. Guns are my weapon of choice to protect my life and the US government has no MORAL power to take that right. All the US government officials can do is what co many other tyrants have throughout the course of human kind, use its collective power to abuse and violate my right to self-protection.

Remember, when every second counts the police are only minutes away.

In any event, what kind of FOOL believes that a law against any gun will stop a person from committing murder?

I can just hear the murderer now: “You know, I would really like to shot that person over there but darn those laws against using or owning guns. I could really get into to trouble for using an illegal gun!”

Liberal idiots.

In any event, what was Lanza thinking? Did Lanza believe the world was ending on 12/21/2012 and decide to save these children from the end of the word?

Possible, but I believe there is a more probable solution to the riddle.

Consider this: Last year over 750,000 babies were murdered in America using abortion doctors. Notably, since Row v Wade, over 50 million women have used abortion doctors to kill their babies.

Call me crazy but I suspect it is possible that the murder of 50 million babies could lower the value of young life, if only by a little bit, in anyone's eyes, not to mention the mentally unstable.

Indeed, I can't think of a single area where we can save more young humans – simply restrict access to abortion doctors.

Even if one believes unborn babies are only potential humans such potential humans deserve as least as much protection as we provide for potential Eagles (it is a federal crime to even touch an Eagle egg - i.e. a potential eagle).

Liberals like social experiments . . . lets try this experiment.

Let us make abortion illegal for 10 years, teach moral ethics (particularly as it relates to the value of life) in school at every grade level for 10 years but leave gun laws the way they are and see the effect, if any, such policies have on the murder rate in America.
Comment: #1
Posted by: SusansMirror
Tue Dec 18, 2012 4:41 PM
What must happen before we finally stop this nonsense that allows such weapons as assault weapons and clips that hold more than ten rounds. ????? We dont need these weapons. Must we have some nut job shoot up a maternity ward before we act??? The image of one little kid aged six having six bullet holes in his innocnet little body is one that one set of parents had to endure in Connecticut. That should never happen.
The Second Amendment was promulgated when we had muskets that could fire one muzzle loaded bullet. ONE. It is crazy to think that our founding fathers would have approved the Second Amendment had they known of the inventions to come>
The crazy people out there who insist that their right to won such guns trumps the right of parents to have their children safe at home need to take stock of what their priorities are. Mosre guns do not make us safe. Tho0se who say that we need protection from a tyrannical govenment are beyond lunatics. Look at the gun laws in Great Britian, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden and many other free countires. What keeps those citizens safe. EDUCATION AND CONSTANT MONITORING OF GOVERNMENT. That is all we need here. Last time I checked we and those other nations have nothing to fear with respect to invasions from outside sources. Any country would need numerous aircraft carriers. No one even the Chinese, have any large-scale building projects in place. Thus the need for assault rifles is moot. It is time to ban them. We have to do this. We have to stop the gun shows where one guy can buy 100 gusns with no restrictions and then resell those guns, again with no restrictions. The Second Amendment cannot be allowed to rule our lives
Comment: #2
Posted by: robert lipka
Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:20 AM
Robert if you want to live in a police state where government monitors your every move, maybe one of those above countires is the right fit for you. Here in America we value freedom. We don't want the government in our personal lives. And gun violence is even worse in those countries. This "assault weapon" is a made up term used by the media. What kind of guns are you even talking about? Semi-automatic rifles are absoluty viable for self defense. Riots, gang attacks, or wild or rabid animal attacks for example. Or maybe someone elses definition of an "assault weapon" is a fully automatic rifle. Well those are already illegal. Limited clip size and ammo restrictions aren't going to do anything. Can you imagine a psycho saying "well I only have 100 bullets instead of 1000, better call the whole thing off". Lets get realistic.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:51 AM
Re: SusansMirror
Thanks for defining the 'real' problem with our culture of death, a culture that our young people endure every day.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Oldtimer
Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:30 AM
Re: robert lipka

See that you made the cover of Time Magazine as one of the persons of the year.

Comment: #5
Posted by: joseph wright
Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:26 PM
Before I get started, let me point out I don't own a gun. But I'm beginning to feel like I'll need to purchase one soon...

Robert Lipka asked: "What must happen before we finally stop this nonsense that allows such weapons as assault weapons and clips that hold more than ten rounds. ?"

This entire sentence is a bit confused. First, by definition, 'assault weapons' are fully automatic. Ownership of such weapons (other than by collectors with special licenses) is already illegal. The weapons used in these recent crimes are semiautomatic (i.e., one shot per trigger pull). The 'assault weapons' once controlled by 'assault weapons ban' were merely semiautomatic weapons that looked like military weapons. The most foolish thing about that ban was that the equivalent weapons that merely looked like ordinary hunting rifles were perfectly legal. In other words, the 'assault weapons ban' never protected anyone from anything. If you wanted it, you could always get a rapid fire weapon that was the equivalent of the banned rifles. They just didn't look as ‘neat' as the weapons that were banned. Presumably the anti-gun types felt safer because the weapons didn't appear as fierce as a military assault rifle.

Further, what is there about the recent mayhem that suggests the criminals couldn't have performed the same acts, just as effectively, with handguns or a shotgun? An argument could be made that these ‘lesser' weapons might actually have be more effective in restricted spaces when the victims are unable to fight back. Mr. Lipka, do you want to scoop up these weapons too?

As for the banning of multi-round clips, this is another bit of progressive silliness. Clips are made from sheet metal and are very simple in design. Anyone with access to a high school machine shop and the will to do so can turn this type of item out by the score. Is it reasonable to believe that yet another law will protect you from people willing to break the law to get what they need to perform heinous acts? Especially when the item is as simple to make as an ammo clip?

The most recent obscenity makes this point very well. In that case, a disturbed person murdered his mother, stole her weapons and ammunition, and then drove to a school to murder children. Mr. Lipka, can you please explain to me how any of the suggested legislation would prevented this? This criminal murdered to get the weapons and ammo he needed to commit further murders. Those acts presumably broke a few laws. So, why would a few more laws have stopped him?

Only a complete ban/confiscation of all weapons might prevent this type of behavior. However, this is specifically forbidden by the second amendment of the US Constitution (As well as recent Supreme Court interpretations). You'll need to get the Constitution amended to get the protection you desire (Good luck getting two thirds of the members of Congress to pass such an amendment and three quarters of the state legislatures to go along with it).

The real problem here is that severly disturbed individuals are allowed to wander around free without proper supervision. Locally, we have a homeless woman who wanders around singing to herself and dancing while dragging her possessions around in a cart. When you ask the authorities why they don't help her, they'll tell you they can't because she has 'right' and doesn't want help. Unless she commits a crime, they can't do a thing. When I was young, these people were placed in institutions, protecting both them and us from harm. Now, thanks to the efforts of 'Progressives' over the last 30 years, it has become impossible to meaningfully help these individuals without their consent. We have to wait until they commit a crime (e.g., mass murder) to help them. (Fortunately, the voices that my local bag-lady hears aren't telling her to do anything violent, yet.) Isn't this the REAL problem we need to concentrate on Mr. Lipka? Not just feel good measures concerning guns that won't work or will be impossible to pass. If you want to prevent these mass murders, the most effective solution is providing better care and oversight for our mentally disturbed population. Until then, I'm afraid these heinous acts will continue to occur.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Old Navy
Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:51 AM
Re: Old Navy

A perfect accurate description of the differences between semi auto and full auto weapons and of the meaningless term assault weapon which just sounds scary for brain dead liberals. A succinct and for those with a brain persuasive argument as to why further gun control laws will achieve nothing at all.

As to "The real problem here is that severely disturbed individuals are allowed to wander around free without proper supervision did you have Lipka in mind?

Comment: #7
Posted by: joseph wright
Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:48 PM
Mr. wright wrote: "As to "The real problem here is that severely disturbed individuals are allowed to wander around free without proper supervision did you have Lipka in mind?"

Mr. Lipka may be a bit confused, but I doubt he fits into the 'severly disturbed' category. In the New Year, let us try to not call one another names.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Old Navy
Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:17 PM
I stand by my comments above. I think of the dear loving faces of my children when they were a mere six and seven years old. Those memories are burned into stone and now that they have passed on to adulthood, I am blessed to see how each has come to fruitition. Unfortunately, those parents in Connecticut and for that matter anywhere else where such babies have been gunned down , will not have that joy. Only a person with a cold unfeeling barbarous mind could espouse anything that would continue this carnage.
I note that in Great Britian and other countries, they dont have this problem on any massive scale. What can we learn from them??? We have to try. Throughout my life I have tried to be a loving and caring person. And please note that I am on record in my state as having bagged a deer for twenty straight years as a hunter. I enjoyed the sport. I never needed anything but a six shot 300 Savage rifle to accomplish my hunting. I hope many more young men can enjoy the sport. But do they need assault type rifles to hunt??? Not at all.
As for the paranoia that the government is coming to get ya. Pure nonsense perpetrated by the NRA to promote more and more gun sales...Our vote keeps us free. Maybe you dont like the latest result.....if so it is you priviledge and obligation to go out and seek a change next time.......and I dont see anyone stopping any of you. It is time to change our mentality about gun laws. Our small children deserve protection from guns
Comment: #9
Posted by: robert lipka
Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:53 PM
Mr. Lipka wrote: "I stand by my comments above....Only a person with a cold unfeeling barbarous mind could espouse anything that would continue this carnage."

Yes you stand by your comments. And you once again failed to address any of the issues I raised concerning your 'solution'. I think I pointed out that your 'solution' was worthless and wouldn't work (i.e., It wouldn't have prevented any of the recent atrocities). Wouldn't proposing ineffective and unworkable solutions be 'barbarous' and 'unfeeling'?

Further, I did not espouse a continuation of the 'carnage'. I, in fact, proposed a solution (i.e., Real help for the mentally disturbed and their families) far more likely to have an effect than your solution. You just don't like my ideas because they don't meet your desire to force people to turn in their guns.

Mr. Lipka also wrote: "I note that in Great Britian and other countries, they dont have this problem on any massive scale. What can we learn from them???"

I also addressed this silly point. Those countries don't have the 'problem' because they have confiscated most of the guns. As I pointed out, this is prohibited in our country by the 2nd amendment. Repealing that amendment is at best a decade long labor. I am almost certain you would fail. Instead, let's do something REAL about this problem.

Mr. Lipka also wrote: "But do they need assault type rifles to hunt??? Not at all."

Again, it almost seems you didn't read my post. Any semi-automatic rifle is the equivalent of the misnamed 'assault rifles' that you want to grab. Taking only some semi-automatic rifles and leaving others is worse than no solution at all. Why not just take away all the brown rifles? That would work just about as well. Instead, let's do something REAL about this problem.

Further, Mr. Lipka wrote: "As for the paranoia that the government is coming to get ya. Pure nonsense perpetrated by the NRA to promote more and more gun sales...Our vote keeps us free. Maybe you dont like the latest result..."

These are the most fantastic comments yet! Our votes keep us free? The founding fathers disagreed. They left weapons in the hands of the populace as the ULTIMATE check on the power of government. They believed that the populace was sovereign and needed the ability to say ‘no' to the government and make it stick. I personally don't believe we are on tyrannies doorstep, but I think the founding fathers were wise to leave this check on unbridled power in place. The notion that this generation (which can't even balance the budget) is somehow smarter than the founding fathers on this issue is a real stretch. Voting is a nice, but it didn't stop Germany from evolving from the Weimar Republic into the Thousand Year Reich. They voted in Cuba once, and look what they have now. Nicolae Ceaușescu might disagree with you regarding the efficacy of an armed and aroused public. I could go on and on... Mr. Lipka, you need "change your mentality about" the possibility of a strong central government evolving into something very ugly.

Finally, Mr. Lipka wrote: "Our small children deserve protection from guns..."

Yes. The need us to do something effective. I proposed a solution that almost certainly would work. We've been playing the 'gun control' game since the JFK assassination with very little to show for our efforts. More ineffective 'gun control' as an answer to this problem only meets Einstein's definition of insanity. Instead, let's do something REAL about this problem.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Old Navy
Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:10 AM
Re: Old Navy

It is, as you are discovering, an act of futility to endeavor to put forth a logical cogent argument to a low information individual such as Lipka or to the rest of the low information cretins that make up his ilk.

Comment: #11
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:00 AM
Old Navy it amazes me how completly, thoughly, and kindly you destroy all of Lipkas arguements. Perhaps in is futile to try and turn liberals from the dark side, but your comments are still appriciated by many. I'm glad there are people out there like you.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:18 AM
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