Dennis Prager / May 21, 2013

On Using Parents of Murdered Children

The president appeared at many rallies on behalf of additional gun control laws with parents of children murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. I have a question for those who agree with the president’s use of these suffering souls. How would you react if a pro-death penalty president travelled across the country with parents of murdered children – on behalf of capital punishment? After all, outside of strongly liberal locales, the great majority of parents whose children have been murdered support the death penalty for murder. And more than a few of these parents who do live in liberal areas feel similarly.

The president appeared at many rallies on behalf of additional gun control laws with parents of children murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

I have a question for those who agree with the president’s use of these suffering souls.

How would you react if a pro-death penalty president travelled across the country with parents of murdered children – on behalf of capital punishment? After all, outside of strongly liberal locales, the great majority of parents whose children have been murdered support the death penalty for murder. And more than a few of these parents who do live in liberal areas feel similarly.

I recall a phone call to my radio show from a woman who told me that she had always been against capital punishment and therefore always disagreed with me on this issue.

But she was calling to tell me that she had changed her mind.

“And why have you changed your mind?” I asked.

“Because my brother was recently murdered,” she responded.

Needless to say, I offered the woman my most heartfelt condolences. To have a loved one murdered adds intense anger to already intense grief. So I truly commiserated with her.

But I didn’t end there. I told her (gently) that it was sad that it took the murder of her brother to come to realize the cosmic injustice of allowing all murderers to live and that capital punishment is a moral imperative. Why, I asked her, hadn’t the tens of thousands of other people’s brothers who were murdered not moved to her to support capital punishment?

She sorrowfully agreed.

So then, what if President George W. Bush had toured the country on behalf of capital punishment with this woman and with dozens of others whose loved ones had been murdered? How would those who support President Obama’s appearances with Sandy Hook parents have reacted to that?

We all know the answer. The news media and the Democratic politicians that enthusiastically approved of President Obama’s multiple appearances with Sandy Hook parents (including flying with the president on Air Force One) would have vehemently protested against President Bush’s appearing with parents of murdered children in support of capital punishment.

Nevertheless, I am not arguing that President Obama necessarily did something wrong or irresponsible in appearing with Sandy Hook parents.

I am arguing two other things.

One is that the media and the Democratic Party are intellectually and morally dishonest when they approve of, and feature, Sandy Hook parents. The press and the Democrats would have relentlessly yelled “foul,” “beyond the pale,” “demagoguery” and “using human props” had George W. Bush done the same thing on behalf of the death penalty. And one can only imagine the vitriol if a Republican president were to travel with parents of murdered children who opposed further gun control.

Democrats and Republicans should always ask themselves how they would speak and act if the shoe were on the other foot.

My second argument is that there is nothing to be learned from the Sandy Hook parents’ support of more gun control. That support is neither morally nor intellectually persuasive. Its appeal is entirely emotional. It may be understandable, but it is still sad that these parents have used the emotional pull that their horrific pain exerts on all of us and expended it entirely on expanding gun control measures that would have in no way prevented Adam Lanza, a sick and evil man, from taking their children’s lives.

Had their child’s murderer been committed to a psychiatric hospital, or (as absurd as it sounds to many Connecticut voters and to the editors of the New York Times) had he been an active member of a church community – some of us believe that either or both of these would have had a considerably better chance than more gun control in preventing those murders.

Assuming, then, that neither the media nor the Democrats would complain if a Republican leader were to do on behalf of capital punishment what President Obama did on behalf of more gun control, one cannot argue that the president’s use of Sandy Hook parents was inherently irresponsible.

Where the president indisputably crossed over into demagoguery was in his repeated implication that those Americans who oppose his gun control proposals care less than he does about these parents’ pain and about the murder of children in general. That, to put it mildly, compromised the dignity of his office.

Ironically – at least in the eyes of the president and his supporters – those of us who want as many good people as possible to own guns (and therefore more likely able to stop those who are about to, or in the midst of committing, murder), and those of us who want to execute most murderers, hold these positions precisely because we do weep for the parents of murdered children.

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