William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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BRING IN THE WISE MEN – AT 9:58 A.M. ET:  After a week of national anguish, the president of the United States, protector of its freedoms, etc., etc., has decided on a course for dealing with gun violence:  He's bringing in Joe Biden.

That's right.  Undoubtedly bowing to public demand, Joe Biden will head the government's effort at combating gun killings.  His qualifications?  Well, uh, let's get to that some other time.  From Fox: 

WASHINGTON – President Obama will tap Vice President Biden to lead an administration-wide effort looking at gun control and other measures in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting last week.

The move, to be announced shortly before noon on Wednesday, marks the first concrete step by the White House toward possibly crafting new firearms restrictions. Aides told Fox News that the president is not expected to announce any major policy decisions on Wednesday. Rather, he will outline the process for pursuing changes.

Obama and top administration officials have suggested the response to the Newtown, Conn., mass murder could include a range of recommendations, covering everything from mental health to school security. But the focus, given the debate that has accelerated on Capitol Hill in recent days, is likely to be gun control.

Which is probably the least effective remedy.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama is "actively supportive" of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's, D-Calif., push to bring back an assault-weapons ban. He also said the president supports closing the so-called gun show loophole.

Lawmakers have floated a number of other proposals, including regulation of high-capacity clips, that the administration could also look at.

At the same time, some lawmakers have embraced broadening the discussion to include an examination of the entertainment industry, and particularly video games. Gun-rights advocates have started to push back on the swift call for more firearms regulation. The National Rifle Association, after remaining silent in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, released its first -- albeit brief -- statement on Tuesday, and announced it would be holding a major press conference on Friday.

The White House sees some urgency in formulating a policy response to the shooting, even as Obama and his top aides are consumed with averting the looming fiscal crisis before tax hikes and spending cuts take effect in January.

As many pro-gun lawmakers have called for a greater focus on mental health issues and the impact of violent entertainment, aides say Obama also prefers a holistic approach.

COMMENT:  Not much thought there.  Please notice that there is not a single suggestion for immediate, practical steps that could be taken.  For example, Los Angeles this week instituted a policy wherein police officers will visit each school each day.  Presumably, they'll come at unannounced times.  (And I hope they'll be in plainclothes and drive unmarked cars.)  It's hardly a total solution, but a potential killer will know that he might just encounter armed officers if he invaded a school.  This is fundamentally the air marshal approach.  We have air marshals, but we never announce what flights they're on.  Perfectly sound first step, and the L.A.P.D. deserves the credit.

We could also call on local volunteers acting as watchmen and watchwomen at the doors of schools.  There are Walmart greeters, aren't there?  Another small step.

And every school should have at least the kind of video surveillance that a supermarket has. 

And, I'd recruit the NRA to help.  They know more about gun safety than any other organization.  They'd be happy to help.

But I doubt if any practical steps will be taken soon.  The ideologists are in charge.  One thing about ideologists:  They never want to solve a problem.  If it's solved, they're out of business. 

December 19, 2012