Obama goes head-to-head with gun lobby

obama signing

President Obama, in a televised address Wednesday, called on the American public to demand measures to curb gun violence. "It will not happen unless the American people demand it," he said.

"I will put everything I've got into this," the president declared. But the task will be difficult, he said, because of "pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty, not because that's true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves."

The American people have to say, "This time must be different," Obama said.

"That doesn't just mean from certain parts of the country," the president said. "We're going to need voices in those areas and those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to say this is important. It can't just be the usual suspects." Change will come "if parents and teachers, police officers, and pastors, if hunters and sportsman, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say, 'enough.'"

Obama, who is a constitutional lawyer, presented a powerful appeal for gun curbs as a Bill of Rights issue. In a challenge to the gun lobby's interpretations of the Second Amendment and individual freedom, the president said:

"This is the land of the free, and it always will be. As Americans we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we've also long recognized, as our founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don't live in isolation. We live in a society, a government for and by the people. We are responsible for each other."

The right to worship freely and safely was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Obama said. The right to assemble peacefully was denied shoppers at a mall in Oregon, and moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado.

"That most fundamental set of rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia Tech and high school students at Columbine and elementary school students in Newtown; and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate; and all the families who never imagined they'd lose a loved one to a bullet - those rights are at stake," the president said. "We're responsible."

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were joined at the event by four children who wrote to him expressing their thoughts about gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy last December in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 small children and six adults were gunned down people.

Also in the audience were the parents of 7-year-old Grace McDonald, killed in Newtown.

After quoting from the children's letters, Obama said, "Our first task as a society" is "keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change."

The president outlined a series of legislative and executive steps to address both mass shootings and "the broader epidemic of gun violence."

Obama asked Congress to immediately enact a renewed ban on military-syle assault weapons and on high-capacity ammunition magazines, and universal background checks for all gun purchases, including at gun shows and from private sellers. In addition, he said Congress should allocate substantial funding to help schools provide mental health services for students, conflict resolution and other anti-violence programs, and funding for training 5,000 additional mental health professionals

The president also detailed 23 comprehensive executive steps he is taking to give "law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence."

These include providing $150 million to school districts and law enforcement agencies to hire school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers and counselors - areas that are often grossly understaffed, particularly in urban schools. The executive steps also include quickly implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act to ensure that health coverage includes mental health care on an equal basis to other care.

In a dramatic windup to the event, the president personally greeted the four children who had written him letters, sat at a small desk in front of them, and signed a directive to implement these executive actions.

Photo: Obama signs order for administrative steps to end gun violence, Jan. 16 at the White House. White House photo

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  • State level legislations is great but national legislation is needed to prevent criminals in a locale with strict regulations getting around these by acquiring guns and ammunition in jurisdiction with lax controls on such transactions. But even national legislation alone will not completely solve this problem, a problem that ultimately is a reflection of a seriously degenerated social system.

    One fact, and one that national legislation may impact but may not change overnight is that criminal gangs from all over the world come to the US to acquire guns for their gangs back home. For these international criminals, evidently, the ease of acquiring guns and ammunition in the US offsets the difficulties that they may face in smuggling the weapons back to their home countries. It is not only the lax gun laws and the relatively easy availability of military type weapons and ammunition that has led to this state of affairs but also the fact that a large number of weapons are manufactured here. Also the bloated military establishment likely also has something to do with this, perhaps facilitating the acquisition of a wide variety of weapons and ammunition with the cooperation of corrupt officials. Things like this render the problem broader and more difficult to address. That said, however, the possibility that such measures will not solve the problem is no excuse to then do nothing. Any measure, no matter how small will, at least, do some good and will serve as a step, however small, towards a more comprehensive solution.

    In the meantime anyway we’ve been subject to a barrage of desperate propaganda by the gun lobby, which is desperately trying to limit the possibility of damage to their positions in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. From what I see however, all the arguments made against the regulation of deadly weapons made by the gun lobby are weak or outright incorrect. An illustration of the later is the often-heard argument of the gun lobby that armed citizens prevents crime. The statistics just don’t bear this out. The fact is that gun ownership makes it far more likely that you will be a victim of a crime. This fact was, unfortunately, borne out in the Newtown massacre. Rather the preventing the crime, the accumulation of weapons by Adam Lanza’s mother facilitated a crime, a crime that she herself was a victim of.

    Posted by Gary Bono, 01/17/2013 2:55am (2 years ago)

  • The shooter at Sandy hook didn't buy the gun, HE STOLE IT! So how is this new law going to prevent a person from stealing another gun, especially now that The Journal News published a map, along with names and addresses of gun permit holders in New York's Westchester and Rockland counties. Like Forrest Gump would say, "stupid is, as stupid does".

    Posted by greg, 01/16/2013 10:45pm (2 years ago)

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