Obama Unveils Long Overdue Gun Control Legislation

Obama and Biden address the media on Wednesday (Photo/pbs.org).

Obama and Biden address the media on Wednesday (Photo/pbs.org).

Jake Moser

President Obama after hearing about the Newtown, Connecticut shooting (Photo/ nydailynews.com).
President Obama after hearing about the Newtown, Connecticut shooting (Photo/ nydailynews.com).

Every year, the president addresses Congress–and the nation–with a State of the Union Address, which covers the important and pressing issues that face the nation.

This year, all the focus was on the fiery debate over gun control. After the tragedies at Newton and Aurora, as well as the countless number of homicides that take place in our highly populated cities every day, the president needed to address the issue. After laboring through the other parts of his speech, which included economic concerns, the taking of troops out of Afghanistan, and gay rights, he finally arrived on gun control.

The president talked about background checks and the elimination of assault weapons on American streets. He then arrived to the most moving and powerful part of his speech, addressing the parents of kids that had been killed by guns that he had invited, repeating the phrase, “They deserve a vote,” while every single Democrat was on their feet applauding. The audience was moved; the president had emphatically made his point to Congress: Now was the time to pass and vote for comprehensive gun regulation and reform.

One month after the Newtown, Connecticut murders, President Obama presented an extensive set of initiatives based on what needs to be done to prevent more violence—not what political strategists think the president could get by a divided Congress.  If anyone remembers Mr. President’s address to the nation a few weeks ago, following the massacre, they would remember how he took this tragedy personally.  He remarked in his address, “While there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil,” he said, “if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”

“Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same,” Mr. Obama said, mentioning that 900 people have died in gun violence since Newtown, a vast majority of them on the streets of “big cities and small towns,” said the president.

We have “the right to worship freely and safely; that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,” Obama said.  “The right to assemble peaceably; that right was denied shoppers in Clackamas, 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.”

Prior to the President’s announcement, a blast of anti-gun control regulation press from the far right was released, saying that his proposal would be oppressive.  Anyone who was paying attention to the news in the last couple of weeks knew that this was nonsense, and the proposals released January 2 were not even close to what the firearm lobbyists wanted Americans to believe they would be. The President’s proposals will not limit any law-abiding citizen’s right to own guns for hunting, or sport, or collection, or self-protection.

January second’s proposals are a mix of executive orders intended to tighten the enforcement of existing gun laws, and new laws that will have to be passed by Congress.  Obama’s bills would require: universal criminal background checks for all gun sales, doing away with the loopholes for gun shows, regulation on the private sales and Internet sales.

The President also called on Congress to reinstate and toughen the ban on assault weapons that was allowed to expire in 2004, to restore a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines and to ban armor-piercing bullets used by criminals to kill police officers, and finally for Congress to pass a $4 billion measure intended to keep 15,000 police officers who are being laid off as states and local governments react to the recent recession and to budget cuts from Washington.

Mr. Obama also issued executive orders to make the background checks system more thorough and strengthen the enforcement of existing gun laws.  He also signed an order making it clear that doctors and other health care providers are not prohibited by any federal law from reporting their patients’ threats of violence and that the health care reform law does not prevent doctors from talking to patients about gun safety.

Obama and Biden address the media on Wednesday (Photo/pbs.org).
Obama and Biden address the media on Wednesday (Photo/pbs.org).

Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden acknowledged that getting any of the president’s proposals through Congress was going to be a herculean task. When asked by the press after the announcement, Mr. Biden said, “I have never seen the nation’s conscience so shaken by what happened” in Newtown.  Obama and Biden will have to make good on the President’s promise to do everything they can to fight for these proposals in Congress—which will mean strong-arming his own party as well as strong-arming Republicans.

America has been late on passing gun reform, and we have payed the price with the massacres at Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and Colombine. In the coming months, the battle over guns will intensify and the public scrutiny will increase. The world will be watching, to see if America can prevail through this struggle. Politicians will have to make a decision soon, because if there’s on thing the president will do, it is make sure that those who deserve a vote, get it.

If you would like to see the President’s announcement, click here.