January 9th, 2013
08:12 PM ET

Letters to the President #1451: 'Fighting close to home'

Reporter's Note: The president has initiated an effort to increase gun control. It is a difficult battle and the subject of today’s letter.

Dear Mr. President,

My father always said, “If you have to fight someone, make sure you don’t fight in his neighborhood.” The wisdom was driven by common sense. On another guy’s home turf you ran the risk of him having many friends who might step in to the fray even if you secured an advantage in the initial clash.

My brother experienced that first hand. One night after a football game at his high school, a bunch of kids in a hostile neighborhood began taunting and then attacking him on the way home. Now my brother is, and always has been, one of the single toughest and strongest human beings you’ll ever meet. He does not back down from a fight easily and seldom has cause to, but that night he ended up running for his life while pursued by a half dozen furious teenagers. When he thundered up the back steps into the house a hail of rocks cracked off of the siding and roof as they tried to get in some final shots.

So the point stands: Only the foolish wander into their enemy’s camp for fisticuffs.

Which is one reason I think your summit meeting on the issue of guns is tricky. At any given moment, both advocates for more control…and advocates against it…may well feel as if they are being lured into a trap. In the first case, there is history to consider. I can’t even count how often I’ve heard politicians rail about the need for new gun regulations, assemble committees to consider the options, and then quietly fade into oblivion a few months later when the noise quiets down. Understandably then, some of the people you may be counting on to push your latest effort may fear they are treading into politically hostile territory…that they will stand up and say bold things, only to have you and other leaders of their cause run away and leave them stranded as soon as the gun lobby punches back.

By the same token, I can imagine that some gun rights advocates and dealers are wary of what you are up to. Sure, you may invite them to the table to discuss these issues, but they may sense a snare in the bushes. To their minds, it is a reasonable suspicion that you might stand them up in a photo op to show how open you are to opposing views, then wallop them with fierce anti-gun legislation.

Like I said, there is reason for both sides to fear being caught in a hostile neighborhood on this issue. And I suspect your success, if there is any to be had, will start with addressing those fears…convincing supporters that you have the political courage to stick with your plans even if you and other Democrats start paying a political price, and convincing opponents that you will indeed consider their thoughts before moving ahead.

Just an idea or two. Hope all is well.


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