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 North America editor

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US gun debate


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  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    DavidinUSA - You appear to feel that President Obama won the election because he stirred up petty resentments
    I do not agree
    The past ten years have been hard, wages stagnant and no pay raises, health care costs thru the roof, costs going up and massive losses of retirement savings
    Watching CEO's get massive bonuses and the rich pay 15% tax on earned interest while I pay 35% on money I worked for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    On a slightly different (but related) tack, DC used to be the muder capital of the US, with over 400 murders annually in the early 1990s. Now it's "improved" - with between 100 and 200 a year...only!

    Most of these murders are committed with guns in African-American ghetto areas. This too deserves an outcry - it goes on year after year after year... But why are politicians silent on this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    31. No Nra

    That is a matter of interpretation. A strict interpretation of the relevant Amendment would conclude the 'right to bear arms' only applies in the case of a civilian militia. i.e. a gun could be owned, but not operated/carried unless in that role. The 'personal use' interpretation - which include personal defence, hunting, sport, etc - was only ruled affirmatively by the SCOTUS in 2008.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    It's not the gun that kills but the person. Perhaps a (but not the only) significant issue here is to ensure that young blokes - especially socially maladjusted ones - do not have EASY access to self loading rifles or pistols. Surely it would be much simpler to introduce security controls than a ban.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    kevfirst - Are you a city boy?
    MrCinColumlbus - Correct, my mistake
    When you live in the country and have livestock to protect you use a gun to protect them and hunt for food
    When you live in the city you want to protect your home and your self from harm by deranged drug addicts looking for stuff to porn
    Or for self protection if you carry a lot of cash
    No need to get carried away & ban them all

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    NHRA? The National Hot-Rod Association? Or the NRA, the National Rifle Association? The latter group lobbies for massively counterproductive 'important freedoms' (e.g. the right to carry guns when drunk... Because nothing says 'Freedom' like drunken gunplay)

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I must be the only one who interpret that the second amendment does not guarantee every American the right to bear arms. To me, it was and is meant for a regulated militia being for the security of a free state. It did not say anything about personal or individual security. Guns advocate always, and only cite part of the amendment.....the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Putting aside your Palinesque/ Tea Party explanation of the 2nd Amendment (I can see how a well armed public would counter-balance stealth fighters and the marines), what about the regulation of the 'militia'?
    You cannot be suggesting that Adams & Co would consider a society in which 20 six yo's have just been massacred by a 'militiaman' with an AR15 as well regulated? COME. ON. !!??

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    No people do not need assault rifles in my view, I was replying to Mike who seemed to think all guns were unnecessary in this country . I do find it a little amusing however that the ban is being proposed by an administration that must think it is ok for mexican drug cartels to have them as they sold them to them

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    #7.Looney Limey
    "we are all in this together and political resentments are just not worth it"

    Agree 100%. Obama cannot keep talking out of both sides of his mouth - on one hand, calling for solidarity, on the other hand egging on resentment against easy tragets (the rich, the talented, the 1%, the 2%, the 3% etc). Angry political rhetoric, from right or left, must be calmed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    My family owns guns, we have a hunting rifle but my son loves to hunt with a bow
    I like my handgun and have it stashed in an easily accessible place for home defense
    Why on earth would I want to own an assault rifle unless it was to do as much harm as possible in the shortest amount of time or just because I like the power it makes ME feel?
    Both of which are indefensible for the NRA
    (not NHRA)

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    In many ways its too late for gun control, as there are so many of them out there.

    Looney Limey 24.

    You mean the NRA, not the National Hot Rod Assocation.

  • Comment number 31.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    A ban on assault weapons is just enough to prevent a meaningful debate on a total ban. I don't care if a guy has a rifle or a hand-gun; if he's paranoid enough to think that he can't go outside without a gun, I don't want him owning any gun... on the day his wife leaves him, or he loses his job or I accidentally reverse into his new BMW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Being ex-military, once upon a time I handled weapons regularly. However, carrying or handling a weapon was always a serious business. The internet is full of pictures of Americans not taking guns seriously; familiarity breeds contempt? At the very least, the right to keep & bear arms could be the right to keep arms _securely_ when not bearing them & unsafe/insecure handling should be a crime!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Admirable and overdue.
    Parents with an IQ above 10 will surely be thanking him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Was wondering why all uk comment sections were closed down, was to make room for advertising revenue generating US comment sections.
    It is not only guns that kill, its advertising as well. we just don't know it yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    @20. british dave

    I get that. You live on farm
    There really are Bears and Wolves and Mountain Lions in the USA.
    But do you need assault weapons against such creatures ?
    Surely they are designed for maiming and killing Human Being on mass not for protection from the wildlife that resides where you live

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Those criticising the SCOTUS for it's "militia" interpretation have got it wrong. The Army and Nat. Guard are considered the military arm of the State, therefore a civilian 'militia' to counter any abuse by that State is still relevant and Constitutional today (if moot).

    I do not agree with the SCOTUS expanding that intepretation to incorporate 'personal gun use', but that is a seperate issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I know this is the land of the free, but let's get real, the NHRA have been a very powerful lobby group in Washington and fighting for the freedom to own a gun that spits out 30 bullets a second is overkill unless you want to overthrow your government so the NHRA needs to get on the "Right" side of this fight, they have delayed a response until Friday so they can get their response organized


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