President Obama’s gun-control proposals are the most comprehensive in a generation, reflecting a president resolved to be more muscular in his second-term dealings with Congress. With the American public on his side, he may well win.
Barack Obama’s gun-control proposals are the most comprehensive in a generation, reflecting a president resolved to be more muscular in his second-term dealings with Congress.
They also surely reflect a president stung by his own conscience in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre for not having acted earlier. And it is the collective sting of the nation, as the president acknowledged today, that is the key to approval of his proposals in Congress, given lawmakers’ previous cowering before the gun lobby.
Six mass shootings shattered communities across the United States prior to Newtown in 2012 without prompting even cursory election-year debate about gun control. It took the killing of 20 first-graders in their classroom to put the issue at the top of the national agenda.
The administration’s proposals include reinstating the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, mandatory background checks for anyone buying a firearm, new federal gun-trafficking measures, more cops, research into the effects of violent video games on youth, and better screening and treatment of mental illness.
Some of these were put into effect through the 23 executive orders Mr. Obama signed following his remarks today. But his call for universal background checks and a ban on military-style weaponry require congressional action. The president picked a fight – and he knows it.
“We are going to need voices [of support] in those areas, in those congressional districts, where the tradition of gun ownership is strong,” Obama said today. “It can’t just be the usual suspects," he said. "This will not happen unless the American people demand it.”
For a president who seems more naturally inclined toward compromise than conflict, Obama chose a propitious moment to step up to the bully pulpit. He has the momentum of reelection. And even before Sandy Hook, the ground had begun to shift on gun control.