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Susan Estrich
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The Perfect and the Good


What happened to that millisecond after the election when both the president and the speaker said they'd heard the message that Americans wanted the two parties to work together, wanted to make divided government work, and that they would do everything they could to make that happen?

Gone? Shall we spend a lot of time pointing fingers and figuring out who is to blame? On the other hand, let's skip it for now.

What happened to that millisecond after the Newtown shooting when it looked like we might actually turn the heat down on the paralyzing gun debate in this country, that keeps us shouting past each other? I know where I'd point the finger of blame on that one (hello, Wayne LaPierre), but there were also people playing along with his absolutist game, on both sides.

Plenty of blame there, too.

Shall we look back on 2012 as the year we managed to survive a presidential campaign most people hated before climbing back into our separate cars for a trip over the fiscal and political cliff?

We'll survive the fiscal cliff impact — eventually. Not without some pain and probably most for those who are already in the toughest shape — isn't that always the way. But the political cliff — that I'm not so sure of.

The perfect, Voltaire said, is the enemy of the good. Truer words were never spoken.

I don't know any law Congress could have passed to stop a crazy, evil guy from setting a trap for firefighters on Christmas Eve. Evil. And I'm willing to concede that tougher background checks would not have kept a gun out of Adam Lanza's hands, since it was his mother's gun, she had it legally, she was trained, and she paid for her failure to keep it behind lock and key and get mental health help for her son with her life. Had she known what he was going to do, she would have tried to stop it.

And it would not have been easy, by the way. I helped a friend get help for her son after he threatened her. I can't tell you how difficult it was. And I am very, very good at accomplishing such things. It took months to find him a safe (for him, his mom and God knows who else) placement.

So no, I don't have perfect solutions. But I know bad ones — and bad gamesmanship — when I see it.

Put an armed guard in every school, at a cost of about $8 billion, when schools are the safest place young people can be? No. Every school security guy you talk to will tell you that if you want to spend money, put counselors in schools. A school can expect a homicide every 6,000 years. Lightning strikes are more likely to kill your kid.

Does that mean we should do nothing about gun violence except keep screaming at each other as soon as the funerals are over? Of course not. To this day, I don't understand why those who handle guns responsibly aren't leading the fight to ensure that everyone must do the same. I know Mr. La Pierre's logic, if you can call it that: the old "toe of the elephant in the door" thinking. But I also know that the only way to protect responsible gun ownership, in the long run, is to take on the plague of irresponsible gun ownership, and who better to do that than those who know the difference. What an opportunity squandered. What a failure of leadership.

What a familiar sight.

Maybe it will turn out that the fiscal cliff is not as steep as we thought. Maybe our taxes will go up and down, like poll ratings. Maybe we got back to business as usual without even knowing it.

But what a shame. If we learn nothing from school shootings and fiscal cliffs, from crazy people and evil in front of us, then shame on us. We can't stop evil, but we can still do our best. Compromise. Reason. Steps in the right direction.

Good, if not perfect.

Isn't that what we teach our kids every day?

Happy New Year.

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
I am very dissapionted in the NRA's reaction to Sandy Hook. They call for more government. An armed guard may or may not be a derrerant. One security guard is easy to get the jump on and could easily be outgunned by a nutball. The answer here is freedom, not government control. Let teachers conceiled carry at schools. Not many would be up for it, but certainly some would. The question of knowing certain teachers may be armed throws uncertaintly in the plans of nutballs.
I am already allowed to carry a gun at malls, carnivals, churches, and many other places where there are lots of kids. So why can't educators do the same at their work? The presense of good guys with guns increases safety. If that were not true, then politicaians and celebrities would not have armed body guards. Yet the hypocrasy of some of these people crying for more gun control when they rely on guns for protection is staggering.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:25 AM
First, let me point out that I don't own a gun (Other than a Pattern 1861 Springfield rifle musket, a symptom of my interest in the US Civil War). But I feel I should be able to get a handgun or rifle with a minimal amount of effort and redtape.

First, Ms. Esrtich wrote: "I know Mr. La Pierre's logic, if you can call it that: the old "toe of the elephant in the door" thinking."

La Pierre's logic? Let me give you a quote from a senior Democratic politician. "You know I don't believe in people owning guns, only the police and military. And I'm going to do everything I can to disarm this state." Michael Dukakis, 1986.

This is just one of many similar quotes from 'Progressive' politicians over the years. Perhaps if they hadn't so baldly stated their intent in the past, people like La Pierre wouldn't be worried about creeping gun control laws now.

Ms. Estrich further stated: "I don't know any law Congress could have passed to stop a crazy, evil guy from setting a trap for firefighters on Christmas Eve. Evil. And I'm willing to concede that tougher background checks would not have kept a gun out of Adam Lanza's hands, since it was his mother's gun, she had it legally, she was trained, and she paid for her failure..."

So why would we pass more gun control laws if they wouldn't fix the problem? Remember Einstein's definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Ms. Estrich further wrote: " A school can expect a homicide every 6,000 years. Lightning strikes are more likely to kill your kid."

But no one is calling for laws to prevent children from walking in the rain (Yet. The safety fanatics in our culture will get there eventually.). If these shootings are so rare, why call for draconian solutions like the proposed gun control laws? Perhaps someone doesn't want to "...let a serious crisis go to waste"? (Rahm Emanuel, Progressive politician)

The more realistic solution here is to get unstable individuals off the street. When I was young, these people routinely ended up in institutions where both they, and the public, were safe. No more! Progressives the courts to agree that these people have rights! As Ms. Estrich points out, it is very difficult to get these people the help they need if they don't want it. They have to commit a crime first, which is way too late.

Well, they may have rights, but so do we. We live in a culture where you can go online and find out what sex criminals (who have completed their sentences) live near you. We routinely limit their movements and where they can live after they have completed their sentences. We don't seem to mind violating their rights. We have to get serious about mental health. We need to find the future Adam Lanza's or Seung-Hui Cho's and force them to get the treatment they need. That is something that probably could get done on a bipartisan basis. And it just might be a real solution to the problem.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Old Navy
Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:54 PM
What is it about the words of the Second Amendment and the decisions of the Supreme Court that you god damned freedom hating, enslavement and regulation loving liberals do not understand?

"..... the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed" Got it !

Wayne LaPierre (God bless him) is the only truth speaker out there.

Comment: #3
Posted by: joseph wright
Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:41 PM
Since my last contribution to this forum, I did some thinking and realized that we were talking past one another. I said to myself, “Why not inject some FACTS into the discussion?”

So I spent an entire 5 minutes on the FBI home page and dug out their latest murder statistics (2011). Everyone please note, these figures are from a Government site, they must correct.

In any case, the results of my data mining were quite eye opening. See for yourself:

Murders in US in 2007: 17,128
Murders in US in 2011: 14,612
(Note the 14% drop since 2007) How can this be with all these assault weapons about?

Murder weapons (2011) (By decreasing number of murders):
Handguns: 6220
Knives or Cutting Instruments: 1694
Firearms (Type Unknown): 1684
Other Weapons: 1659
Hands, Fists, and Feet: 728
Shotguns: 356
Rifles (All Kinds): 323

Note, the FBI did not break out ‘assault weapons'. They aggregated them with all rifles. The best we can say about the assault rifles murders was that it was <= 323.

Well, can you now see why we need an assault weapons ban? Neither can I! We would probably get a larger effect outlawing ‘big knives'. Perhaps we can mandate only plastic utensils may be used at home?

In the future maybe we can use these facts for the starting point of any discussion of gun control in this forum?

Happy New Year everyone!
Comment: #4
Posted by: Old Navy
Fri Dec 28, 2012 4:45 AM
Re: Old Navy

The anti gun brigade have no interest in facts just emotion. They play upon it with made up meaningless but scary terms like "assault rifle" "assault weapon" ' extended capacity clip" etc. Their goal is to leave the citizens defenseless.

Trying to make rational argument to the low information irrationals is an act of futility.

I shall continue as before, locked loaded and ready to defend myself, my family and my property against the murderous mayhem, looting and civil disorder that is in our near future.
Comment: #5
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Dec 28, 2012 8:04 AM
Re: Old Navy

Facts don't seem to matter to people who are only interested in being seen as rising to the occasion of resolving a good crisis.
Comment: #6
Posted by: pb1222
Fri Dec 28, 2012 2:27 PM
Wayne LaPierre did offer a non-reactionary, workable solution to "saving the children". We could train some teachers or administrators and it would cost a heck of a lot less than hiring a bunch of security guards. The NRA does take the lead in promoting firearm's safety.
Comment: #7
Posted by: pb1222
Fri Dec 28, 2012 2:30 PM
"I call on congress today to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation" -Wayne Lapierre
Sorry, wrong answer jerk. Congress does not have the authority to do such a thing. Not that they pay much attention to the Constitution anyhow, but the NRA of all groups, should only be advocating whats constitutional.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:46 PM
Last year Liberals and Democrats help mothers kill over 750,000 innocent babies with a weapon known as abortion doctors.

I find it unlikely such people really care about the death of children but simply see such deaths as an opportunity to advance their political agenda.

Liberals and Democrats make it difficult for honorable people to be proud of being human.

Comment: #9
Posted by: SusansMirror
Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:57 AM
Dear Ms. Estrich,

If someone spoke about you the way you do in this post about Wayne LaPierre [NRA], you'd ignore their message wouldn't you? It's your side that constantly does this, and then complains about the lack of 'civil dialogue'! What's more we already had a discussion in 1994 - REMEMBER - Your side won!!! - in 1994. Now you want a "discussion" about Gun Rights. Actually you don't want a discussion you want Gun Control, and disguised as a discussion about guns.

Arming teachers is crazy is all I hear from your side. So far your No Gun Zone hasn't stopped a single killing has it?
Well, my suggestion is arming teachers who are or were military officers in the regular or reserve military, many that have seen combat. What you and your side think this is crazy! You and like minded don't trust our military officers especially with combat experience??? Once someone who wants to kill gets into the school, they need someone who can stop this individual, as I said your No Gun Zone hasn't stopped a single murderer has it!

Nuff Said...Dennis
Comment: #10
Posted by: Dennis
Sat Dec 29, 2012 12:46 PM
Re: SusansMirror

Amen to that ! Liberalism is and always has been the culture of death, from Sanger to Obama. Eugenics, abortion and the euthanasia of the elderly that will result from the implementation of Obama care.
Comment: #11
Posted by: joseph wright
Sat Dec 29, 2012 12:58 PM
2013 seven minutes ago in PA.
May I be the first to wish all those that voted for Obama all the unemployment, all the fiscal ruin, all the loss of freedoms, and the end of the American dream for which they also voted. God damn them!
Comment: #12
Posted by: joseph wright
Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:13 PM
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