Since Connecticut's strict gun control didn't prevent the Newtown horror, policymakers shouldn't impose new restrictions that disarm the law-abiding, says John Andrews in the January round of Head On TV debates. Just do the math, replies Susan Barnes-Gelt, and we'll all conclude too many have died, laws must be tightened. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Colorado proposals to help children of illegal immigrants and shut down death row, as well as the continuing fiscal cliff drama and the Obama-Boehner standoff. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997 and a presentation of Centennial Institute since 2009. Here are all five scripts for January:
1. GUN CONTROL
Susan: Thirteen. Sixty-four. One hundred and forty two. One hundred and thirteen. Two-hundred and fifty. Four Hundred and fifteen. Thirteen years. 64 mass shootings. One hundred and forty-two guns. One hundred thirteen illegal guns. Two hundred and fifty dead. Four hundred and fifteen injured. The Second Amendment? Do the math.
John: The mass violence is unacceptable, Susan, absolutely. We have to address it. America can do better. But my friend, listen to yourself. Most of the guns in those shootings were already illegal. Legislation in Congress or in Colorado must recognize that. When responsible citizens have firearms to protect themselves, crime goes down.
Susan: Thirteen. Sixty-four. One hundred and forty two. One hundred and thirteen. Two-hundred and fifty. Four Hundred and fifteen. Thirteen years. 64 mass shootings. One hundred and forty-two guns. One hundred thirteen illegal guns. Two hundred and fifty dead. Four hundred and fifteen injured. Do the math.
John: The math says more Americans are killed each year by hammers and clubs than by guns, according to the FBI. More Americans are killed by automobiles than guns. Connecticut’s very strict gun laws didn’t prevent the Newtown horror. The problem is the culture, not the weapons. Don’t disarm the law-abiding.
2. COLORADO ASSET BILL (DREAM ACT)
Susan: Colorado voters retained a Democratic Senate and turned over control of the House to the Dems. The economy is uppermost for D’s and R’s, but reduced tuition for undocumented students – the ASSET bill – is high on the agenda. Investment in education for ALL Colorado students is key to the future of this great state.
John: Public policy should not reward lawbreaking. It’s unfair that CU should cost more for Tommy from Kansas, a citizen and the son of citizens, than for Tomas from Mexico, whose parents snuck him into the country as a child. Tomas is not to blame, but neither are taxpayers. Let private charity subsidize his tuition.
Susan: The demographics of Colorado and the entire country are changing – Exhibit 1: November’s election. Kansas Tommy’s future is inextricably bound to Tomas’s skills. Education is not a zero sum game. America’s future depends on an informed, diverse and well-trained workforce.
John: America’s future depends above all on the rule of law, a shared common culture, and patriotic citizens who understand that rights involve responsibilities and cheating has consequences. The Asset Bill or Dream Act disregards all those values with misguided sympathy and a hidden leftist agenda. Don’t pass it.
3. DEATH PENALTY
John: An ancient principle of justice says that if you take a life, you pay with your life. This is not barbaric, it’s reasonable and right. A child-murderer like Austin Sigg or a mass killer like James Holmes deserves the death penalty. Colorado should not abolish it.
Susan: Which testament is it? The ‘eye for an eye’ bible or the theology valuing the sanctity of life? Honestly, I am ambivalent on the issue of the death penalty. I am a pragmatist. Which costs less? Lifetime incarceration or the death penalty? It’s a calculation, not a principle.
John: When lawmakers debate abolishing the death penalty, they will be told it has become impractical with the way the appeals process works today. There’s your pragmatism. Then we should fix that process, not redefine crime and punishment to the vanishing point. Tell it to the Ridgeways and the Aurora theater families.
Susan: I need to be convinced that loss, grief and anger can be assuaged by retribution – the death penalty. Reforming the justice system isn’t the answer, particularly during these hyper-partisan times. Life imprisonment may be more unbearable than death.
4. FISCAL CLIFF & DEBT CEILING
John: With last-minute legislation on January 1st, Obama got his tax increase on the most productive Americans. The minimal added revenue will not nearly solve our trillion-dollar deficits. It merely penalizes success and hurts everyone’s prosperity. Congress must address the spending crisis. Do your thing, Republicans.
Susan: If the D’s and the R’s don’t stop their playground antics – the country suffers. Dems must get serious about entitlement reform. Republicans - about the bloated defense budget. The rest – to quote the Bard, “ Sound and fury, signifying nothing!”
John: Washington is all bloated, but for the record, defense spends less than half the money as entitlements. But it starts with attitude. As the Lincoln movie reminds us, when America faced a cancer called slavery, the president and both parties came together. Why can’t they now, with the cancer of overspending?
Susan: Overspending is merely a symptom of the cancer. The disease is myopic self-absorption where nearly everyone exposed to the DC swamp becomes infected with the perq’s of power, the illusion of control and the obsequious groveling of special interests. It’s a toxic, potentially fatal disease.
5. WHITHER SPEAKER BOEHNER?
Susan: House Republican Speaker John Boehner has a problem: followership. Leaders cannot lead without the consensus of disciplined, informed colleagues who share a common sense of purpose, while disagreeing on tactics. His power as Speaker is hostage to a minority of luddite anarchists.
John: Americans knew what they were doing when they reelected a Democratic President to step on the gas and a Republican House to hit the brakes. It’ll be bumpy, but divided government may create the opening our economy needs to recover. John Boehner is tough as a boot. He’s the right speaker to confront Obama.
Susan: The problem isn’t divided government – a balance of D’s and R’s. The problem is the intransigent myopia of the far right and, perhaps, the far left. Progress in a democracy demands compromise, negotiation and mutual respect. These three characteristics define the Beltway’s endangered list.
John: You didn’t mention the most uncompromising ideologue of them all, our left-liberal President. Dogged John Boehner leading the House majority and crafty Mitch McConnell leading the Senate minority can’t match him on charisma, but they have the people’s best interest at heart to avoid US bankruptcy. Unlike Barack Obama.