While Mitt Romney is getting a lot of attention for the stumbling start to his European tour (new slogan: "I won't apologize for America ... I'm too busy apologizing for myself"), his comments on gun laws merit a little more scrutiny for their awe-inspiring incoherence and vapidity.
Here's what Romney said, speaking to NBC News's Brian Williams:
But I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws. A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening.
Well, yes, a lot of what the shooter did was illegal, like shooting people. But the fact that shooting people is against the law did not prevent it from happening. So I guess by Romney's logic there's no point in outlawing shooting people?
The point that Romney is clearly missing is that a lot of what he did before committing murder was actually legal.
Well this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people.
Again, the guns were all legal. A Romney spokeswoman later tried to clean up his mess by saying he meant bombs when he referred to "weapons and bombs." Maybe legal guns aren't "weapons" in his view.
As for his assertion that changing the law won't "make all bad things go away," that's not only dumb but also condescending. No one is arguing that, say, banning assault weapons would "make all bad things go away" (talk to third graders much, Willard?). The idea is that by making it harder for, say, lunatics to get hold of guns it could diminish the number of Aurora-like acts.
It's that kind of thinking that has in the past led politicians like—wait for it—Mitt Romney to enact assault weapons bans (in his case in Massachusetts as governor). Does he still think that guns like the AR-15 used in the Colorado attack are "instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people" as he once did? He declined to tell NBC News when Brian Williams asked. Of course not—to answer the question would be to risk offending either the National Rifle Association and its allies or turning off swing voters uncomfortable with assault weapons in movie theaters.
Anyway, back to the main challenge identified by Mitt Romney in the aftermath of the latest assault weapon violence perpetrated by an apparent lone wack-job: "Changing the hearts of the American people."
What does that mean? Changing the hearts of the American people ... how? Is he suggesting that while an assault weapons ban, say, wouldn't have done anything to prevent a disturbed individual from assembling an arsenal and using it, sheer force of moral suasion would have kept the killer from perpetrating his evil? That would be a formidable use of the bully pulpit indeed! Or is he saying there's something in the "hearts of the American people"—not just one deranged American person—that needs changing? Maybe if we cared more as a society this senseless tragedy could have been prevented? Maybe we need to heart more guns?
I think New York's Dan Amira had the best reaction to this pablum:
Is that his actual plan? Let's call up the Care Bears, maybe they can bathe all of America in the glow of their belly-rays and dissuade everyone from carrying out any more massacres.
The answer, of course, is that Romney doesn't want to give an answer so he resorts to incoherent Hallmark card nonsense.