The Washington Post and the New York Times lead with the Million Mom March, the largest protest ever against gun violence. The march is also the top world news story at the Wall Street Journal. USA Today leads with a report by “leading cancer groups” that cancer deaths will drop again this year, with 28,000 fewer deaths projected. The downturn continues a trend that began in 1990. The decline has been attributed to a decrease in smoking, earlier detection, and more accurate screening methods. The Los Angeles Times leads with an assessment of the U.N.’s Sierra Leone boondoggle. The article available as this column went to press made no mention of the news, fronted by the WP, that over 150 captive U.N. peacekeepers were released by rebels yesterday.
The stories on the Million Mom March are long on touching tales of victims and survivors of gun violence. They’re short on details of the March’s aims and their feasibility. Neither the WP or the NYT mention the fundamentals of the MMM platform–registration and licensing, stricter background checks, mandatory trigger locks–until well after the jump. And only the WSJ comments on the workability of this agenda, noting “All major gun control legislation before Congress has been stalled for a year,” without further explanation. Both the NYT and the WP carry the same sound bite from NRA executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who appeared on three Sunday talk shows to label registration and licensing requirements “a constitutional burn on the Second Amendment.”
The WP is alone in noting the aspiration of one of the march’s organizers, who plans to turn the movement into a “privately funded political organization” to lobby for the aforementioned legislature. The NYT cites polls showing that gun control has become a gendered issue: 78 percent of women (versus 62 percent of men) favor stricter laws on gun control. The numbers also show that neither candidate has a clear advantage on the issue–5 percent more woman overall think Al Gore is better on guns than George W. Bush, but among mothers, Bush has a 7 percent lead (no margin of error is given).
The question of the march’s attendance numbers is vexing. March organizers claim attendance was near 750,000. None of the papers give this estimate much credence, but all note that the U.S. Park Police no longer provides estimates of the numbers at such events, given the controversy these numbers inevitably generate. But with the rhetorical (and perhaps historical) significance that these numbers might assume, shouldn’t the government take greater pains to chronicle them impartially, instead of abandoning the effort entirely? And since when does governmental bureaucracy stop doing something because it’s controversial?
Rebels in Sierra Leone released 157 U.N peacekeepers, according to the WP front. This may be due to the intercession of the president of Liberia, who has ties to the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, and who had asked RUF field commanders for a release of hostages as a sign of good will. Officials said that there was no sign any of the prisoners had been mistreated. Negotiations with the titular head of the RUF and other rebel leaders have been progressing slowly, as many leading rebels have fled or been imprisoned by the government in Sierra Leone.
The WP announces that George W. Bush will outline his proposal for social-security reform today in California, and provides an informative account of the social security debate. A cornerstone of Bush’s plan is the creation of private savings accounts, which could be difficult to finance in conjunction with his proposed tax cut.
The NYT fronts an investigation into South Africa’s persistent crime problem. The post-apartheid regime has had trouble reforming the country’s decentralized and uneducated police force, which used to exist largely to quell political unrest. Most alarming statistic? In one township, 200 cases in one year were assigned to officers who were retired from service or dead.
The USAT fronts (and the LAT reefers) news that Indiana University will announce today the fate of IU basketball coach Bobby Knight. Knight has been under investigation for several weeks following charges of physical abuse and harassment leveled by a player and a department secretary. Perhaps fearful of retribution, the legions of folding chairs menaced by “the General” during his 29 years at Indiana refused comment.