Obama chooses gun control fight

President Barack Obama announces the creation of an interagency task force for guns at the White House 19 December 2012 Barack Obama has called for a wide-ranging approach to mass violence, but it is clear he expects a proposal for a ban on assault rifles

President Obama has, whether by design or not, chosen a fight on one of the issues that will define how we look back on his presidency.

The obscene massacre in Newtown shocked the nation. Yesterday, at lunchtime, I heard a man outside one of the shrines in the centre of town saying that he hadn't felt like this since 9/11.

This is not a pivotal moment on that scale, but it could be important nonetheless.

The president said he hoped memories were not so short that the shock of the killings had faded in a month's time when he expects a report on his Oval Office desk.

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Preventing some of the worst consequences of America's love affair with guns would be a very big legacy indeed”

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Many are cynical about this, and doubt the president's rhetoric will amount to much. But he will be hung out to dry if it doesn't.

He has gone out of his way to say that he wants action, not just words, and expects a series of concrete proposals that he will put in his State of the Union address at the end of January.

The president has called for a look into mental healthcare, video games and the culture of violence. But it is clear he expects Joe Biden to recommend a ban on assault rifles.

That means he is taking on a huge political battle that will rage throughout the year and probably for many years to come.

I am intrigued, more generally, by Obama's political game. Taking on Republicans in Congress, and then pointing out they stopped him from doing much of anything, doesn't have a lot of traction.

It worked, just, before the election. But in a second term, unless he expects to win back the house in the mid-terms, it won't earn him a place in the history books.

But preventing some of the worst consequences of America's love affair with guns would be a very big legacy indeed.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • Comment number 23.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    kozzy06 "This is a mental health issue."

    Too right. The mental health of people who believe there's a UN/commie/federal conspiracy to deprive them of their freedom. Who believe the constitution is sacrosanct even though the US is a completely different country from when it was drafted. Who put their right to bear arms above their responsibility as a society. Yes, clearly a mental health issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Its the 21st century and there is absolutely no reason why civilians should have access to military weapons. Many legally owned guns are used to kill people - the only sensible thing to do in light of the recent massacre of innocents is remove the problem by changes to law.

    A three hundred year old law has no place in the 21st century - it should be resigned to the history books where it belongs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Unlike you I am an ex Brit who became a US citizen. I live in the country and have cattle and horses. I am not a gun nut, but have a shotgun to ward off predators such as coyotes or feral dogs that from time to time harass my stock. Also in Arkansas, where I live , hunting is very popular and ,of course high powered rifles are used. most of my neighbors grew up with guns and are safe

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Of course Obama should push for more controls. But let's not get carried away - the guns and ammo the wont be handed in will result in at least a generation of further tragedies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    There are many Responsible gun owners out there that I hope step up and give support to some sensible measures (assuming they are sensible of corse big assumption i know) that may help to reduce the risk of such tragedies in the future.
    A ban on Assault weapons does seem the way to go, lets be honest who really needs assault weapons.
    There has to be some common ground here

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    #11 - I hope the Supreme Court will not interfere with the Assault Guns Ban, we had it before so I see no reason for the SC to object, many people think they need assault rifles to protect themselves from the government, but I think it is to overthrow a government that they think is not representing them, that's why we all have a vote which makes voter suppression more harmful that banning AR's

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Have our politicians forgotten how to negotiate? There are commonsense steps that everyone should be able to agree with. For example rigorous checks for any gun purchase, including at gun shows and private sales. Seeing any movement as the beginning of a slippery slope is paralysing this government.

    By the way 5) Paulc001, we get bears visiting our garden regularly. This is the frontier!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    You seem to focus on changing a constitution rather than interpreting it.
    The Supreme Court is dominated by Republican appointments. Those justices have wilfully misread the 2nd Amendment.
    The NRA rarely references "well regulated militia". Right of the people, references community not individual rights.
    Any law needs to be read contemporaneously- legislators have a role in facilitating this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    "This is a mental health issue."

    NIdal Hassan, who killed 13 people and wounded 29 others at Fort Hood wasn't a mental case.

    On the contrary he was a PSYCHIATRIST who treated people with mental problems. And he managed to kill and maim so many with impunity because soldiers were not allowed to carry any weapons (incl. side arms) on the base for "safety reasons". [sic]

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    But the really sad thing is that there are people rushing out to buy weapons similar to the one used in Newtown to "beat the ban" they expect. With attitudes like that change will be next to impossible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Stakeholder : Your delusion that Drone Attacks are immoral because the Terrorists that are targeted deliberately surround themselves with innocent women & children in my mind means the unavoidable innocent lives lost in the war on Terrorists is squarely on the backs of the Extreme Terrorist Individuals that have one goal & one goal only

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Obama's problem is that any attempt to alter the law will be met with resistance from the Supreme Court over the fact that it would arguably contradict the US Constitution. Please follow the link to an article I've written on the constitutional issues facing prospective legislation. http://jqechalktalk.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/how-to-ban-guns/

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    And how will it change anything?

    This is clearly a mental health issue and its mental health that should be the absolute No.1 priority, not a pointless ban on assault rifles which will make no difference, just as it made no difference last time when columbine happened. There are millions of assault rifles in circulation, and they will stay in circulation.

    This is a mental health issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Is this Obama's 9/11 or his poisoned chalice? Bush got plenty of mileage out of 9/11 and America is still supping from that cup more than a decade later. I like Obama; doesn't seem crazy. America has too much of an unhinged relationship with firearms; that has got to change. Is Obama the man to change such a culture and hand over the White House to a fellow Democrat? I hope so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    What a waste Obama is in America-terrific leader stymied by retarded, insular thinking
    For a 'sacred' document, the 2nd Amendment is abused by the Republicans to justify the unjustifiable.
    It cites "well regulated" and "people". It does not bestow on individuals a right to own assault rifles.
    The fact that we are hearing suggestions that teachers be armed shows just how much Obama is up against it

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    DavidinUSA - "angry political rhetoric that generates resentment against minorities"
    The citizens of the USA have come together to show their support for Newtown, 20 Christmas trees donated that were suddenly decorated within an hour & food donated from businesses in cities in different states
    So many reasons to celebrate, we are all in this together and political resentments are just not worth it

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I wouldn't be so concerned with entering the history books, if I was the POTUS. But rather more in securing a safe, violence free, future for the young and the old alike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I wish the President luck but doubt he will succeed. And for the gun lovers in the US, two points to counter their 'constitutional right' to bear arms.
    1) There is no frontier. You will not be attacked by a bear or wolf.
    2) Britain is not going to invade and take its colonies back.
    We don't want them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    If the President means business, he should start by firing Attorney General Holder for distributing assault rifles to Mexican drug lords. If the President is sincere about preventing the unnecessary killing of children, he should review his drone attack policies which have inadvertently killed more children than any gun nut.


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