We don’t need pledges to fight gun violence in America.
We need plans. Realistic, practical, well-considered, workable plans.
In the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called on Democratic presidential candidates to endorse his four-point “Make America Safer” pledge, in which all the candidates agree to outlaw assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, create a mental health database, pass universal background checks and pass red-flag legislation to prevent potentially violent people from buying guns.
We agree that all 20-plus presidential candidates, including President Trump, need to make reduction of gun violence a major campaign issue.
But we also believe that shaming candidates into signing on to some generic, partisan pledge is not the answer, nor do we think voters should put any stock in whether candidates sign or don’t sign the pledge.
First off, pledges are a simplistic, manipulative political tool designed to play to voter outrage. How many times have we heard candidates urge their opponents to sign pledges not to campaign negatively or not to raise taxes or to participate in a set number of political debates or not to take money from X industry? Do they really have an effect on your vote, or on policy?
What we’d rather hear from the candidates is exactly what their plans are for addressing the issues that contribute to mass shootings and other gun violence in the country.
Assault-weapons bans, background checks and red-flag laws might be part of the solution. But they raise questions of their own.
For instance, exactly what would those weapons bans and background checks and red-flag laws entail?
It’s difficult to get people to agree on the definition of assault weapons, much less a full-on ban. Tell us how you’d pass one.
How deeply would those background checks go and what happens when someone fails one?
New York took years to overcome fears about its red-flag law taking away Second Amendment rights before passing the law this year. How will candidates overcome that resistance nationally?
What else are candidates going to do to address the root causes of gun violence, including discrimination, radicalism, mental health issues, poverty, domestic abuse and other issues?
Candidates can agree to sign pledges all day long. But that doesn’t give voters what they need.
They need specific plans so they can evaluate the details and judge the candidates’ ideas on their merits.
This pledge demand is just an unwelcome and unhelpful distraction.