For Mayor, the Time to Discuss Gun Control Is Now

On some issues, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg invokes wisdom that was given form in the distant reaches of time. Not being the most introspective of men, he may not even be aware he is doing this. Nonetheless, on certain matters that he cares deeply about, Mr. Bloomberg echoes concepts expressed 2,000 years ago by a titan of Jewish scholarship, Hillel the Elder.

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Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

Hillel succinctly articulated people’s obligations to themselves and to others in a two-sentence construction often translated from Hebrew this way: “If I am not for myself, who will be? And if I am only for myself, what am I?” A third admonition cautioned against delaying the performance of one’s duty: “And if not now, when?”

Five years ago, when the mayor announced his blueprint for a more environmentally friendly New York, he seemed to channel his inner Hillel when he said, “If we don’t act now, when?” He won huge applause with that line.

He has now returned to that theme in rebuking both President Obama and Mitt Romney for summoning little more than isn’t-it-awful and we-share-your-tears sentiments after the insane movie-theater shootings in Aurora, Colo. Where, Mr. Bloomberg asked, is the substantive discussion about reining in a gun culture that worships Second Amendment absolutism over preserving life?

Monday morning, he appeared on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.” That program’s co-host, Joe Scarborough, had aligned himself with those who say this isn’t the time to talk about even minimal, sensible measures of gun control. It is “unbecoming” to do so right after the cataclysm in Colorado, Mr. Scarborough said. “Let’s have this debate in a week,” he said. “Let’s have this debate in two weeks.”

Sure. Why not in two months, or two years?

Mr. Bloomberg, in another Hillel moment, was having none of it. “People say, ‘Well, you shouldn’t address it now because we’re in a time of crisis and mourning,’” he said. “Yeah, well, 18 months since Arizona” — the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others outside Tucson in January 2011 — “and we did nothing. If not now, when are you going to do this?”

When indeed?

In all likelihood, the mayor’s latest comments will lead to more invective aimed at him by the National Rifle Association or its fellow travelers. To them, he is practically Public Enemy No. 1. Mr. Bloomberg is used to it. If one is judged in part by his enemies, he may even welcome it. Nor may he mind criticism clearly directed at him by the ever-voluble Chris Christie, New Jersey’s governor. Mr. Christie complained on Monday about “politicians who in the immediate aftermath of this kind of tragedy try to grandstand on it.” Considering the source, the mayor is likely to shrug that one off.

Not that Mr. Bloomberg doesn’t run off the rails himself at times. He did so last week when he described the New York Civil Liberties Union as being “no better than the N.R.A.” in its criticism of the Police Department’s so-called stop-and-frisk policies. Both groups, he said, were more concerned with “protecting their ideology” than ensuring that people can walk the streets safely. This linkage seemed a stretch worthy of Silly Putty.

But he was on the mark when he described himself as different from lawmakers and others at the national level who do not have to live with the consequences of their actions or their inaction. A mayor, he said, has no such luxury, a point painfully reinforced Sunday night when another gun-toting lowlife fired shots in a Bronx playground and killed a 4-year-old boy, Lloyd Morgan.

“Mayors are in the solutions business,” Mr. Bloomberg said, adding that “all we’re talking about here are reasonable restrictions” — like regulations that might have made it more difficult for someone like James E. Holmes, the suspect in Aurora, to build a 6,000-round arsenal by ordering ammunition online.

At a minimum, “we don’t have to break new ground here,” he said. “All we’ve got to do is follow the promises that were made by the elected officials” — he meant Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney — “back when they were pandering and said, ‘We’re going to fix this problem.’” Later, interviewed by Piers Morgan on CNN, he went so far as to suggest that police officers around the country might consider going on strike until the public insists that lawmakers do more to get guns off the streets.

“To those that say, ‘Look, this is about gun control,’ it isn’t,” Mr. Bloomberg said on MSNBC. “It’s about crime control.” Then, in yet one more Hillel moment, he essentially invoked the ancient sage’s “if I am not for myself” question.

“This isn’t about somebody else,” he said. “It’s about you and your kids.”


E-mail Clyde Haberman: [email protected]

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A Police Stop That Hardly Seemed Routine

Dear Diary:

As I was driving uptown on Third Avenue, I suddenly heard sirens blaring and saw red and blue lights flashing, right behind me.

“Oh, oh – here comes a ticket. Did I inadvertently run a red light? Or did I commit some other moving violation?” I rolled down my window.

The unmarked black S.U.V. stopped, and an officer, heavily armed and wearing a bulletproof flak jacket, approached me.

“Don’t move! — Just stay put,” he commanded sternly, eyeing me with suspicion, while glancing at what looked like a cellphone pointed at my face.

I handed him my license and told him that I had been trying to pull over to buy a bottle of water on the advice of the technician who had just administered my PET/CT scan.

The officer asked for the name of my doctor. It dawned on me that I might have to spend extra days in custody until she returned from China.

“Just calm down; we are going to get you a bottle of water.” The officer’s face relaxed. An amiable young policewoman appeared. “Please have a few sips. And, would you please allow us to show our new recruit, who just joined our team, what it is all about?”

A third officer materialized. By then, I had already noticed that this was a special services unit.

The leader brought the apparent cellphone closer to my face, addressing the rookie. “You can see that it reads now, 4.5. However, when we first stopped him it read 7.7.”

And, then addressing me: “Sir, you were full of radioactive material, and that is why we had to stop you. But now the count is already coming down.”

Greatly relieved, I exclaimed: “I am so impressed with you guys! You are the true guardian angels of the city!”

I owe them big. And not just for the bottle of water, but for the peace of mind they gave me.


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Excellence in Education Guest Lecturer Series Luncheon

Next Tuesday, July 31st, the Caesar Rodney Institute will host a Guest Lecturer Series luncheon at Dover Downs in the Kent Room. Mr. Jim Hosley, who is the Center Director for Excellence in Education at CRI, has invited Dr. Matthew Ladner from the Foundations for Excellence in Education as the featured speaker. Dr. Ladner is the Senior Advisor of Policy and Research there, and has previously worked as Director of State Projects for the Alliance for School Choice. He has provided testimony to Congress, a number of state legislatures, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also authored studies, journal, and law review articles on education reform.

The purpose of this lunch (which is free for those who attend) is not to hear a great speak pontificate about his accomplishments and preach to the choir of those of us mortals below him as to what we should be doing. What Dr. Ladner is going to do is to facilitate a discussion about education, how strategies to help students from low-income families to succeed have worked, and how to put parents and teachers back in charge of their classroom, as opposed to the red tape bureaucracy both in Dover and in DC which micromanages every aspect of the educational process. So far, two elected officials have confirmed attendance: Senator Gary Simpson and Representative Harvey Kenton. We also have both GOP candidates for the 32nd House District, Will McVay and Ellis Parrott, who will be present.
If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Matt Revel, our Programs Coordinator, at 734-2700, or e-mail him at [email protected]

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