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, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 443.

    MovingViolation (436),

    Sorry, that should read "There may be MANY factors ..." not "There may be may factors ..."

  • rate this
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    Comment number 442.

    @440.FrenchToaster - "There's still going to be a lot of opposition to an assault rifle ban."

    At least with this massacre still fresh in the minds of many, it is doable. Obama can point to the prior ban as an example. Other possible controls could be a legal limit on the size of the magazines used in existing weapons, or even a ban with a buy-back program.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 441.

    406 DavidUS

    "Don't they teach history anymore in UK comprehensive schools?"

    History - YES

    Propaganda - NO

  • rate this
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    Comment number 440.

    There's still going to be a lot of opposition to an assault rifle ban.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 439.

    MovingViolation (436),

    I just don't see a Constitutional Amendment being a realistic goal, and any substantive changes should focus on smaller, more plausible goals. There already is an effective ban on ownership of automatic fire weapons and military small arms, so there is room for legislation that will pass constitutional review.

  • Comment number 438.

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

  • rate this
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    Comment number 437.

    MovingViolation (436),

    That's my point. There may be may factors influencing peoples behavior, and Latitude Infinity’s point @287 was, I think, that there may be other valid issues involved with the killings. Further, if there are societal differences involved, they need not be that same as Lanza's mental health problems.

    Additional gun control legislation may still be warrented, though.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 436.

    MovingViolation (435),

    “So?”

    The U.S. prior to 1934 was different from that of the last 20 year or so. Think about it: Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay rights, to name just a few. The two societies are motivated & energized by very different stimuli, and inhibited by very different taboos. The taboos that protected children from automatic fire weapons then no longer protected them now

  • rate this
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    Comment number 435.

    Chryses 434 - "Latitude Infinity’s point @287"

    OK, so he made a valid point at 287. So?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 434.

    MovingViolation (430),

    “… Isn’t that just a variation on the mental health question?”

    Latitude Infinity’s point @287 in re the count & frequency of school shootings prior to the National Firearms Act of 1934, when Americans could purchase full automatic weapons, when compared with the current count and frequency, when they cannot, is valid. Perhaps the problem is not black & white.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 433.

    381:Latitude Infinity:In the case of Newtown there seems to be credible evidence that the killer was mentally ill, not evil but insane and acting from within a world that differed from that of normal people who kill, and that he had been like this from youth.

    421:Leo:That logistical problem would leave criminals guns while taking them from innocent civilians and greatly increasing the crime rate.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 432.

    372:margaret howard:A fair number of those homicides may have been in self-defense.

    379:myrnafromsmyrna:There are 4th Amendment rights involved in forcing treatment on the mentally ill. Most of the people I know who have guns use them for hunting as well as for protection. And they're happy to protect others as well.

  • Comment number 431.

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

  • rate this
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    Comment number 430.

    Chryses 411 – “Have you ever considered that social changes, unrelated to gun law, may be responsible for this Connecticut gun massacre?”

    Isn’t that just a variation on the mental health question?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 429.

    PunPui (428),

    "... Now that you’ve explicitly called him out about it, if he doesn’t answer, he has conceded the point"

    Well, we shall see. Patience is a virtue.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 428.

    @424.

    “Leo will try to pretend that he was never confronted with the question he felt entitled to ask Latitude Infinity @408: “Have you ever considered that social changes, unrelated to gun law, may be responsible …”

    Oh. I don’t know. Now that you’ve explicitly called him out about it, if he doesn’t answer, he has conceded the point.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 427.

    364:powermeerkat:Try teaching someone with asperger's and come back and tell me it's not an illness.

    365, 372:margaret howard:The point is to stop the killer while he's in the hall before he gets into a school room and harms someone. SCOTUS ruled that the states don't have to cover those w/in 133% of the poverty level, w/ no repercussions for not doing so. So much for health care reform.

  • Comment number 426.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 425.

    250. powermeerkat ‘Btw. No debate on yet another hundred of deaths of Bangladeshis in yet another sweat shop (easily preventable)’

    No debate on Bangladesh on a blog about the US + its gun laws. Do the words ‘off topic’ ring a bell?

    ‘Oh, hipocrisy (sic)! Oh, demogoguery (sic)!


    Oh literacy...

  • rate this
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    Comment number 424.

    MultiWoman (422),

    “… What is the probability that you’ll get an honest response to that? If he answers, hell undercut his position!”

    Zero. Leo will try to pretend that he was never confronted with the question he felt entitled to ask Latitude Infinity @408: “Have you ever considered that social changes, unrelated to gun law, may be responsible …”

    Some can only dish it out.

 

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