Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Pres. Obama came out with some sensible proposals on gun violence today.
By advocating reinstituting a ban on semi-automatic weapons and establishing a ban on high-capacity magazines, he would at least make it more difficult for mass killers such as we saw in Aurora or at Sandy Hook.
Some of his other ideas are welcome, as well, like getting armor-piercing bullets off the street, and increasing mental health services.
But not only do we need to increase mental health services; we also need a national public awareness campaign on suicide warning signs.
Let's be real here: Of the 31,000 people killed by guns in the United States in 2010, 19,000 of them were suicides. So let's work seriously on suicide prevention.
I also doubt this assertion by the White House: "The single most important thing we can do to prevent gun violence and mass shootings, like the one in Newtown, is to make sure those who would commit acts of violence cannot get access to guns."
Is that "the single most important thing"?
I'd hazard a guess that, other than bolstering suicide prevention efforts, the single most important thing we can do is to end the war on drugs.
By legalizing or decriminalizing drugs, the rampant gun violence that is plaguing places like Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Oakland would go way down. (And those involved in the violent gun trade will manage to get a hold of firearms somehow, even with bans and increased registration efforts in place.)
While we're at it, we also might try solving the problem of poverty, which is closely associated with the problem of gun violence.
"Poverty is a substantial factor in gun deaths" in metro areas, according to a recent report by the Atlantic Cities.
Yes, it's easier to place more cops in schools, which Obama now advocates, than it is to end the war on drugs or tackle poverty. (And Obama's willingness to place more cops in school puts the lie to the hideous NRA ad about Obama carrying more about his kids, who have armed guards at their school, then everyone else's kids.)
But we're kidding ourselves if we think Obama's efforts are going to make a big dent in gun violence.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Banning Semi-Automatic Weapons Is Not Enough."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.