Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
I did not want to write yet another story about the tragedy in Connecticut. However, something must be done about the rash of gun-massacres of innocents in our country. The Sandy Hook mass murder is only the tip of the iceberg. Over 30 people are murdered by guns each and every day in the US- sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.
It is time to return to a well-reasoned and common sense approach to regulation of firearms. Currently, about 40% of guns are sold without a background check. There should be NO guns sold to anyone, anywhere, without first checking the criminal, domestic violence, and psychiatric records of the purchaser. Assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips are designed for one thing only- to kill human beings. We should return to the restrictions on these murder weapons that existed in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban prior to 2004. If that law had imperfections, let's fix them in a new and improved assault weapons law.
When the Second Amendment was written, guns took about a minute to load between firings. Our Founding Fathers were not thinking about automatic and semi-automatic weapons and 30-bullet clips. They were not thinking about weapons of mass destruction that could wipe out entire platoons of soldiers, churches of worshipers, or classrooms of children in seconds. As weapons technology has advanced, we need to advance our laws with rational controls over that technology.
In addition to common sense gun safety laws, we need to address the fact that mass killers are severely disturbed. We need to have a national discussion on how we identify and treat those with profiles that could lead to violence. Full implementation of Obamacare in 2014 will dramatically increase the number of people who have access to mental health treatment. With fewer non-treated unbalanced individuals, we might see the rates of violence go down.
In January, the US Congress has a chance to fix the problem. Bills will be introduced in the House and Senate for a renewed ban on assault weapons. If enough of our elected officials have the courage to ignore pressure from the NRA, we can go a long way towards a solution. We should contact Jim Sensenbrenner, Ron Johnson, and Tammy Baldwin and demand action.
On a much less serious note-
Some highly partisan Republicans frequently talk about the opposing political organization as the “Democrat” Party. This phrase sounds as ignorant and as grating as some hilljack saying “I done that” or “I seen that”. An advisor to President Clinton likened it to “fingernails on a chalkboard”. In proper usage, the term “Democrat” should only be used as a noun. When an adjective is needed, the correct term is “Democratic”.
Republicans have used “Democrat” as an adjective for years to both annoy the other party and to try to lessen big-D Democratic claims to small-d democratic values. William Safire traced use of the term as a slur to the 1940 Presidential campaign of Wendel Wilkie.
The infamous 1950's Communist witch-hunter Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI) always used the term Democrat as an adjective. He explained that he didn't think the Democrats really represented democratic ideas, and should not be allowed to call themselves democratic. As if Ol' Joe was any great judge of democratic ideas!
During the 1976 Vice-Presidential Debate, Bob Dole famously spoke of “Democrat Wars”. Never accused of being a grammarian, George W. Bush used the term constantly and unconsciously. One Bush campaign e-mail mentioned “The Democrat Party”, the hazards of “a Democrat victory”, and “if you want the Government in your pocket, vote Democrat”.
Bush was called out by the press after he used the term in his 2007 state of the Union Address. In his usual jovial manner, the President explained in a later speech, “Now look, my diction isn't all that good. I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language. And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party."
Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich often used “Democrat as an adjective. The 1996 Republican platform referred to "Democrat schemes," "Democrat presidents," and "Democrat Congresses". However, the party relented in the 2008 platform and has since used the term in the correct way.
Right wing bloviators such as Limbaugh and Frank Lutz use “Democrat” as an adjective almost exclusively, going out of the way to purposely needle their mortal opponents. One writer compared usage of the term as a wink to their party faithful, a partisan equivalent of a gang sign.
Any politician who claims that they want to work across the aisle, but insists on calling the other side the “Democrat Party”, “Repuglicans”, or worse, is being disingenuous. Use of two little letters can speak volumes. In the interest of improving political civility, each party should be referred to by its actual name.