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since 1865

After Newtown
Page 32: Siegfried Kracauers celluloid world

Within hours of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary


School, a sizable crowd gathered quietly outside the White
House. The mourners held candles to memorialize the
victimssix adults and twenty children
a 2010 campaign ad. Right wingers who
just 6 or 7 years old. They also clutched
blamed their typical boogeymen, such as
signs saying Mr. President: We are
a lack of prayer in schools, were ridiculed
praying for your action. A sprayor ignored, as were those who, incredpainted piece of plywood asked, Today:
ibly, suggested that the solution to school
Sandy Hook, Tomorrow ?
shootings would be to arm teachers with
A bit earlier, an emotional
concealed weapons.
President Obama stood at the E D I T O R I A L
In short, if the prelude to seripodium inside the James Brady
ous gun control legislation were
briefing roomnamed for the former
scripted, it would look exactly like this.
White House press secretary paralyzed
But what change is really possible, espeby gun violence thirty years agoand
cially in hyper-gridlocked Washington?
wiped away tears as he tried to bring the
Pessimists could make a strong case.
country to grips with the fact that many
The NRA kept gun control legislation
young children had been slaughtered by a
from passing in Congress after the Coldisturbed young man we would later learn
umbine shootings. The Virginia Tech
wielded a powerful assault rifle and two
massacre, the deadliest school shooting
semiautomatic handguns. The president
in history, provoked only modest legispromised meaningful action to prevent
lation requiring more money for backmore tragedies like this regardless of the
ground checksand even that carried an
politics, a pledge he repeated two days
NRA-backed provision allowing states
later at a nationally televised memorial
to reissue guns to the mentally ill. Alservice during which he noted it was the
though the NRAs clout has paradoxically
fourth time he had stood before the counbeen muted by Citizens United, which
try in the wake of a mass shooting.
has helped crowd out some of the NRAs
Meanwhile, polls taken after the tragcash, it still holds powerful sway over
edy showed the highest levels of support
many in Congress, particularly in the
for stronger gun control in a decade, exRepublican Party, which will control the
ceeding even the levels measured after a
House for at least two more years.
mass shooting in 2011 that left six people
But gun control advocates should not
dead and Representative Gabrielle Gifbe intimidated: the political winds at their
fords critically injured. A gun control petiback are strong. Its clear that Obama
tion at the White House We the People
would sign gun control legislation passed
website quickly broke the record for most
by Congress, and the focus should be
signatures. Within three days, Senate
there. Advocates must pressure memDemocrats announced plans for bills banbers to pass legislation swiftly reinstating
ning assault weapons and high-capacity
the assault weapons ban and outlawing
magazines, and not a single pro-gun senahigh-capacity magazines. The language of
tor agreed to appear on NBCs Meet the
those bills must be strong, unlike the 1994
Press. Eleven members of Congress who
ban, which left many loopholes for manuhad previously opposed gun control anfacturers to exploit by slightly modifying
nounced a change of heart, including Senand renaming their guns. Senate attempts
ator Joe Manchin, who once fired a bullet
to close the loopholes were rendered moot
through Obamas climate change bill in
by the expiration of the ban in 2004.

Inside
2

Letters
Editorials & Comment

3 After Newtown
4 Roots of a Rampage
KATHERINE S. NEWMAN

5 Noted
8 Spying With Impunity
MARCY WHEELER

Columns
6 Deadline Poet
Qualifications to Be Secretary of State,
According to Senators John McCain
and Lindsey Graham
CALVIN TRILLIN

9 Subject to Debate
This Year, Be More Generous Than Ever
KATHA POLLITT

10 Sister Citizen
Newtown and the Perils of Fear-Driven
Lawmaking
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY

Articles
11 Walmart Workers Walk Out
The new campaign faces daunting odds with
high stakesand not just for the workers.
JOSH EIDELSON

15 Walmart: Americas No. 1 Gun Source


Need a great deal on a Bushmaster AR-15
semiautomatic assault rifle? Try Walmart.
GEORGE ZORNICK

20 The Progressive Honor Roll of 2012


JOHN NICHOLS

Books & the Arts


27 MELLEY: The Covert Sphere
PETER C. BAKER

32 vON MOLTKE AND RAWSON, EDS.:


Siegfried Kracauers American Writings
GEMNDEN AND VON MOLTKE, EDS.:
Culture in the Anteroom
J. HOBERMAN

35 Heroism, Hidden
BARRY SCHWABSKY

COVER DESIGN BY MILTON GLASER INCORPORATED


VOLUME 296, NUMBERS 1&2, JANUARY 7/14, 2013
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January 7/14, 2013

But thats only a start. Assault rifles contribute to only a


fraction of Americas gun violence. Handguns, particularly
in urban areas, claim thousands of lives every year, and lets
be frank: theres no political will to ban or confiscate those
weapons. We also have a conservative Supreme Court that has
blocked such efforts in recent years.
All of which means that gun control advocates should
broaden the fight. They can target the profiteers of gun
violence, for example, an approach thats already shown some
promise postSandy Hook. After a California teachers pension
fund threatened to review its investment in private equity firm
Cerberus Capital because it owned Freedom Group, the large
gun maker that manufactures the .223 Bushmaster rifle used at
Newtown, the firms managers almost immediately agreed to
sell it off. Other gun manufacturers and the banks and funds
that profit from them are also fertile territory for public and
investor pressure. Retailers like Dicks Sporting Goods have
agreed to suspend assault weapons sales, though Walmart, as
George Zornick details in this issue (see Walmart: Americas
No. 1 Gun Source) is standing firm.
Theres also bullet control: highly regulating the sale of ammunition and restricting it to licensed gun owners only, while
making resale strictly illegal and putting a unique, traceable
micro-stamp in each bullet. The guns owned in America might
always be with us, but they need a steady supply of bullets to be
dangerous. And constitutional scholars have proposed enacting
gun control through the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments
instead of the Second Amendment, on the theory that the later
amendments allow for a more democratic consideration of the
way guns are affecting the country. Whatever the solutions, the
problem is clearand that should be more than enough reason
for change.

Roots of a Rampage
Heart-wrenching

photos

of

innocent

children and grieving adults have dominated the news since the
Newtown massacre, as bewildered bystanders across the country ask what could have motivated such a horrific crime. We
hardly recognize the country we have become as incidents of
this kinddoubly frightening for their randomnessshatter
ordinary lives in movie theaters, shopping
COMMENT
malls and first-grade classrooms.
As I have learned in my study of rampage
shootings, the search for answers about a killers motive must
include an examination of the social world in which he was
embedded. My research teamDavid Harding (University of
Michigan), Cybelle Fox (UC Berkeley), Jal Mehta (Harvard)
and Wendy Roth (University of British Columbia)and I spent
several months doing field research in two very small towns, one
near Paducah, Kentucky, and one outside Jonesboro, Arkansas,
both sites of terrible rampage shootings in the late 1990s. We
were on assignment from the National Research Council, which
on the instruction of Congress launched a series of case studies
designed to answer the question: What leads young men to

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