In the wake of our nation’s gun violence epidemic, President Obama laid out a common sense action plan yesterday to keep the American people safe. At the same time and without even looking at the details of the President’s plan, Republican presidential candidates stood with the NRA and against 72% of NRA members and 90% of all Americans who support universal background checks.
Today, editorials in newspapers across the country are echoing the American people’s support for gun violence prevention and concerns with inaction in Congress:
DES MOINES REGISTER EDITORIAL
Following the deadly shooting of 20 students and six staff at a Connecticut elementary school, Congress did not pass a single bill to address gun violence. It did nothing after high-profile shootings at a military base, in a movie theater, at a church and on a college campus. Even when one of its own, a congresswoman from Arizona, was shot in the head during a public meeting with constituents, Congress sat on its collective hands. Over New Year’s long weekend, four people were killed and 38 wounded by shootings in Chicago alone. Not a single federal law will change.
No tragedy, statistic or public opinion poll will prompt Washington lawmakers to pass even the most rudimentary gun control measures. Too many of them are beholden to or fearful of the National Rifle Association. So Americans have understandably given up on Congress. President Barack Obama has, too. After repeatedly and unsuccessfully encouraging lawmakers to send any reform to his desk, he is now rightly doing what he can on his own.
Though Obama’s authority is limited, his proposals are a good start. And they provide an example for lawmakers to build on — assuming they ever muster the courage. President Obama is announcing a series of executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence in the U.S. Here is what you need to know about the decision that is already being met with mixed emotions.
SAN JOSE MERCURCY NEWS EDITORIAL
President Obama gave Congress every opportunity to do something to curb gun violence. Lawmakers’ utter failure — cowering before the National Rifle Association — left the president no choice but to use his executive authority. The common-sense measures he is pursuing will at least help keep guns out of the hands of people just about everyone believes shouldn’t have them.
While Republicans are lambasting the president’s action, the latest CBS News/New York Times poll found 92 percent of Americans — including 87 percent of Republicans — favor background checks for all gun buyers.
House Speaker Paul Ryan used to be among them. Two years ago he said closing the loophole was a “reasonable” and “obvious” thing to do. But Monday, he joined the GOP chorus of NRA acolytes.
California has required background checks for all sales for years, but many guns used in crimes here were purchased in neighboring states such as Nevada. For that reason, a national law could help make California safer, too.
The president always has been clear that he respects gun owners’ rights. “I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on paper. It guarantees the right to bear arms,” Obama said Tuesday. “No matter how much people try to twist my words around, I taught constitutional law, I know a little bit about this. I get it. This is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns.”
Instead, it is an effort to reduce gun violence by those who have no business possessing a weapon, and the American people overwhelmingly support the idea. Congress and the NRA have no business opposing it.
AURORA SENTINEL EDITORIAL
Few places such as Aurora and Newtown, Conn., can appreciate President Barack Obama’s emotional response Tuesday to the tragedy of gun violence and the need to do something as a society to keep others from suffering our unenviable fate.
If someone were able to have stopped Aurora theater shooter James Holmes from amassing a military-style arsenal in 2012 and unleashing it inside the Century 16 Theater in 2012, what might we have done to make that possible?
Because of the loathsome politics gripping Washington, we may never know.
Immediately during and after Obama’s emotional speech at the White House, where he outlined administrative changes he wants to make to combat rampant gun violence, critics dog-piled on Obama’s modest and unsurprising plan.
Between 80 percent and 90 percent of Americans, including Republicans, back universal background checks for gun sales, which is exactly what Obama is trying to do after Congress has adamantly refused. Almost every one of Coffman’s and Gardner’s constituents want everyone who buys a gun to undergo a background check.
Instead, these two lawmakers jumped on the GOP jingoism bandwagon, saying that Obama “disrespects” the U.S. Constitution.
Memory of the Sandy Hook barbarism was clearly uppermost in Obama’s thoughts Tuesday as tears unexpectedly streamed down the president’s face when he invoked its memory. Who can fail to be moved by thoughts of the terror and suffering those innocent first-graders experienced in the moments before their deaths?
He will do what he can, and is gamely and imaginatively coming up with new initiatives — from 230 new FBI staff to process background checks more rapidly to an extra $4 million to improve the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ ballistics tracing efforts, along with a new ATF “Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking.”
On Monday, the president also formally directed federal agencies to research smart-gun technology aimed at keeping unauthorized users from firing weapons, and to explore making such gun-safety advances a specification when the federal government, as the nation’s largest purchaser of firearms, buys its weapons.
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL
On Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, President Obama formally announced that he would be taking a series of executive actions — all of them within his powers as president. It was an important step, since he sometimes seems alone in Washington in his willingness to take on the issue of guns. But none of his actions are aimed at taking weapons away from law-abiding citizens, and none will have that effect. In fact, there has been no bill in real contention in Congress for many years that would reduce the number of guns currently in circulation, or disarm any law-abiding Americans.
And yet, as happens every time, the response from the anti-regulation crowd (even before the White House said a word in public about Mr. Obama’s plans) was to deliberately misstate what Mr. Obama was intending. The president said he wanted to increase the number of government agents to process background checks and make the existing system more effective. He also plans to modestly expand the number of dealers who need federal licenses under current law and said he would ask Congress for more money to combat mental illness.
The Republican machine’s reaction took none of that into account.
Given the situation, it’s hard to imagine a serious conversation about guns as long as politicians in thrall to the gun lobby choose to misrepresent what supporters of gun safety laws are actually saying. Those supporters, by the way, include the 90 percent of Americans who favor universal background checks for gun buyers.
The hear-nothing crowd did not budge when college students were slaughtered on campuses like Virginia Tech, when grade school children were massacred in Connecticut, when people were shot to death in a movie theater in Colorado — and in so many other places, including every day on our streets and in our homes.
They were not even moved to have a serious conversation about gun safety after self-proclaimed Islamist terrorists attacked law-abiding American citizens in California using weapons obtained in the free market of death-dealing instruments so highly prized by the National Rifle Association and those who do its bidding.