At an event at the White House Wednesday at which President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden advocated the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda based on work by the White House-led task force to bring common sense measures to America's wild-west gun environment. The Executive Branch leaders hung a virtual bulls eye target on their backs that gun advocates and their allies will aim and fire at in the wake of the most recent gun-related massacre that befell students, teachers and school officials in a fatal pre-Christmas school shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that still grips the nation's heart.
Now Is The Time
The president and vice president, who will take the oath of office for the second and final time in just five days, on Jan. 21, offered the nation words of consolation and specific gun violence prevention proposals that have already drawn fire from lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association and mostly Republican lawmakers who will oppose this president on this issue as they have consistently done since his first swearing-in four years ago on virtually every other issue, great or small.
“We won’t be able to stop every violent act, but if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation, all of us, to try," President Obama said following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy at which 20 children students and six adults were killed by a gunman who had a history of mental illness.
Most gun owners are responsible and law-abiding, and they use their guns safely, the President said, adding that he "strongly believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms." But to better protect the nation's children and communities from tragic mass shootings like those in Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Tucson, the leadership duo identified four common-sense steps that can be taken right now, including closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands, banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and taking other common-sense steps to reduce gun violence, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.
"While no law or set of laws will end gun violence, it is clear that the American people want action. If even one child’s life can be saved, then we need to act. Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our communities, and the country we love," President Obama said today at a gathering that included children who have written the President about gun violence and their families; families of Newtown victims; representatives from a broad coalition of stakeholder groups including law enforcement, gun safety advocates, educators, sportsmen, health and philanthropic leaders; Cabinet and administration officials; members of Congress; and people that have used the White House’s We the People online petitions platform to speak out on reducing gun violence.
Memos issued to agency leaders
The nation's chief executive office and commander-in-chief issued several memorandum today, among them one to the Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding engaging in public health research on the causes and prevention of gun violence, a second to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies regarding tracing of firearms in connection with criminal investigations and a third one to the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies regarding improving availability of relevant Executive Branch records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also had something to say today. "I thank the president's task force for its thoughtful recommendations. I am committed to ensuring that the Senate will consider legislation that addresses gun violence and other aspects of violence in our society early this year. The tragedy at Sandy Hook was just the latest sad reminder that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens – especially our children – from gun violence and a culture of violence, and all options should be on the table moving forward."
Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York: "If you look at the combination of likelihood of passage and effectiveness of curbing gun crime, universal background checks is at the sweet spot. We’re glad the President put such emphasis on it, and we look forward to working with him on this and other proposals to make our nation safer from the scourge of gun violence."
Following today's much anticipated announcement, House Speaker John Boehner's office responded to President Obama's call for new control legislation. "House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations," a spokesman for the Speaker's office said, adding, "And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that."
Representative Mike Thompson, D-California and chairman of a gun violence panel of House Democrats, offered this: "The president and our task force agree that we need a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent gun violence. Executive action can and should be part of the process, and many of the executive actions announced today will have a positive influence on reducing gun violence. Now it's time for Congress to step up and do what needs to be done to save lives. Many of the policies that will have the greatest impact on reducing gun violence will require congressional action. During the next several weeks our task force will examine the president's proposals and the proposals of others. We will continue meeting with stakeholders on every side of this issue. And we will develop a comprehensive set of policy proposals that both respect peoples' 2nd Amendment rights and help keep our communities safe from gun violence."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was also not silent. "President Obama's series of gun control measures amount to an executive power grab that may please his political base but will not solve the problems at hand. He paid lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights, but took actions that disregard the 2nd Amendment and the legislative process. Representative government is meant to give voice to the people; President Obama's unilateral executive action ignores this principle. Instead, we need to work together to find real solutions – many of which do not come from the federal government – that help protect our children and communities while also being firm in protecting Americans' constitutional rights."
National Rifle Association, the nations largest gun advocacy lobbying group, which has a video called "Stand and Fight" that uses the president's daughters as fodder for more guns in schools, issued this statement:
"Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority. The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America's most valuable asset – our children. Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy."
Oppose gun violence prevention at your own risk
Already fully engaged with the president on issues of debts and deficits, spending limits, funding to keep the Federal government running and a host of other issues, Speaker Boehner, as Washington watchers have noticed, isn't all that interested in another fight with President Obama over gun control, now that public opinion has shifted on gun control to more gun control. But while he's not raging against the White House machine, Speaker Boehner apparently isn't keen on taking any action anytime soon.
White House leadership calculus
Part of the White House calculus, it appears, is to show leadership now in order to make concessions, if they are needed, later. Building a coalition to pressure mostly Republican legislators to is one strategy to be played out in the coming weeks and months. Regardless of what happens going forward, Republicans may find themselves on the wrong side of the issue, as the mood of the nation changes away from their wild-west, anything goes notions of gun control.
Observations of the landscape in Washington on this issue predict that the party of no, a moniker the GOP earned in the president's first term for opposing or obstructing his policies or program, have the clout to kill, they do so at their own risk when midterm elections roll around in two years and memories will remain of their recalcitrance on enacting common sense reforms to protect the nation's children.
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