Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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January 21, 2013

An infantile spectacle

President Barack Obama set a new standard for stupidly exploitative White House events by appearing onstage with children to unveil his gun-control proposals.

He quoted from the kids' letters. He invoked their Solomonic authority: "Their voices should compel us to change." He signed executive orders as they gazed on adoringly. He hugged and high-fived them.

No doubt every parent thinks his or her little Johnny or Sally is the next James Q. Wilson. That doesn't make it so. Some of the wisdom that the president shared from his adorable pen pals was, "[I] want everybody to be happy and safe," and "I feel really bad."

News flash: Kids don't want bad things to happen. This would be a genuinely useful insight ... if we could write public policy in crayon. The White House event smacked of the old unilateral disarmament campaigns of the 1980s when we were supposed to abolish nuclear weapons because they scared youngsters.

We can assume that the kids onstage with Obama don't have a fine-grained sense of the limits of gun control or a proper regard for the Second Amendment. That's OK, though - neither does he.

It can't be said that using kids as props was beneath the gravity of occasion, since the occasion was all about feel-good PR and make-believe. For all the emphasis on stopping another Sandy Hook, Obama didn't offer any gun-control proposals that would do it.

The president plugged for a universal background check. Adam Lanza's mother, who owned the guns he used on his rampage, passed a background check. James Holmes, the Aurora, Colo., shooter, passed two background checks. So did the Virginia Tech shooter (although he shouldn't have).

The president wants a new assault-weapons ban. He told of how another school shooting happened in California while networks were broadcasting a Joe Biden news conference about his task force. He didn't mention that the shooter used a shotgun, not an assault weapon. He could have said that there was yet another recent shooting at a Kentucky community college. The shooter used a semiautomatic pistol.

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