President Obama's next campaign - against the gun lobby

President Barack Obama signs executive orders on gun violence flanked by children who wrote him letters 16 January 2013 President Obama marshaled the rhetorical power of child letter-writers in the statement

President Barack Obama called on Americans, from parents and teachers, to hunters and sportsmen, to say "enough".

He talked of a little girl, Grace, gunned down at Newtown, who loved the colour pink and the beach. A picture she drew now hangs in his private study.

The audience included parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Alongside him were children who had written to their president urging him to do something about the shootings.

If it seemed like a campaign speech, it was.

Campaign techniques

Conviction politicians campaign to win elections as a means to an end. That end is bringing about change. This time, Mr Obama isn't making the mistake of allowing the massive organisational operation that allowed him to win an election to go to sleep when the real job begins.

It is not just about TV props such as being surrounded by kids. It is about motivating grass-roots groups, bringing campaigners together, using the infrastructure of the election campaign to co-ordinate and organise.

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These moves may seem small-bore compared to gun laws in many other countries but they are a very big deal here”

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The reason the president needs to use all the techniques of a campaign to get public opinion on his side is that powerful forces, representing many Americans, fear such changes are a danger to their country's basic values.

The battle over guns is part of a bigger war. But it is one that will last for years and could partly define the mid-term elections in 2014 and possibly the 2016 presidential race as well.

Many Americans may not be aware of it, but the scale of gun violence is one of the things that defines their country's image abroad.

Many in Britain and elsewhere in Europe simply don't understand America's reluctance to impose more restrictions on firearms.

They regard the argument that more guns mean more safety as the politics of the madhouse.

But it is not just the view from abroad. There is a gulf of incomprehension between the two sides in America too.

'The essential freedom'

The president wants to ban what he calls "weapons of war" and magazines that can hold many bullets.

Customers shop at the Guns-R-Us gun shop in Phoenix, Arizona, 20 December 2012 Guns sales have reportedly spiked since the Newtown shooting

He wants to make everyone buying a gun go through a background check. At the moment an estimated 40% of all gun purchases take place without a background check, because they occur between a buyer and a private seller, rather than a licensed firearms dealer.

He wants to lift a ban into government research into gun violence.

These moves may seem small-bore compared to gun laws in many other countries, but they are a very big deal here, and it is hard to see how the ban on assault rifles will get past Republican (and indeed some Democratic) opposition in Congress.

Gun owners I speak to aren't putting it on. They feel genuinely bewildered and believe that their rights as honest and law-abiding citizens will be restricted if the president gets his way.

America's relationship with guns is complex and divided. The opposition to new rules is not just the pragmatic objection of hunters and sport-shooters. For some, it is based on the fundamental belief that gun ownership is the essential freedom upon which all other freedoms rest.

President Obama knows this will be a long, hard battle, part of his determination aggressively to take on American conservatives and brand them as wild-eye opponents of common sense, acting against the interests of their country.

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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    #326 etc - sieuarlu

    Many of sieuarlu's posts to this forum have been, frankly, rather daft. But he makes a good overall point - UK criticisms of the US seem strange when British society is so disfunctional. Look at the series of Pakistani paedophile cases in the UK - the UK authorities are clearly hampered by pc & not protecting the most vulnerable children. As bad as anything in the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    335. USSilentMajority
    The only reason the Repugs still control the House is because of extreme gerrymandering by Repug controlled State legislatures. The total votes cast for Democratic House members exceeded that of Repugs.

    Curious how you believe all those who disagree with you are gov employees. You not qualified for one of those cushy gov jobs? :-(
    Is that what's bothering you bunky?

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Take away the right to bear arms. Take away all pistols and multiple-shot rifles and shotguns. Make owning any single shot rifle or shotgun expensive and difficult. In time (it will take years) criminals and psychopaths wont have access to guns. Why not do it? Because Americans still like their right to own guns more than they dislike gun violence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    Today, US "bewildered"

    Self-defence gun policy should be indirect: let them rust, be recycled, disappear into museums

    Reality obliged US to revisit 1781 Articles of Confederation. Equally urgent need now to rationalise current Constitution

    Next Convention to face challenges of Mammon, fundamentalism, the division of humanity by fear & greed

    Against all elitism, not just inter-state

    Tom Paine

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    332. DavidinUSA Being ironic again.....

    So do you think there is a positive correlation between those who think Keynesian economics make sense and those who think fewer guns would lead to fewer gun deaths?

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    Just now
    327 HungeryWalleye
    (Apparently so silent you all didn't vote in the election Nov 2012)

    :) We still have a congress that is not controlled by the administration, as was originally intended in the constitution.


    That sounds just like the reason for a House of Lords that isn't a Tweedldee to the House of Commons' Tweedledum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    327 HungeryWalleye
    (Apparently so silent you all didn't vote in the election Nov 2012)

    :) We still have a congress that is not controlled by the administration, as was originally intended in the constitution.

    Though I'm still hoping for the cliff to put you and the other government freeloaders looking for another job, instead of on the backs of the working "Americans"

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    ref #297

    You and Obama refuse to out any blame on Hollywood which glorifys vioelnce. These overated celberties presume to lecture the rest of us when they contribute to the problem.

    Obama views them as a protected class like Unions

    Whats your reason?

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    what a load of crap the first things one of my uncles did with a gun was shoot himself accidentally dead there is an important issue and that is competence that does not exist in abundance and wouldn't it be a cryin shame. You might take more aggro off people who do not feel deterred but conversely you face a different set of risks with gun ownership. It suits some not all still varmint infested

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    "there are some who would take your irony at face value"

    Well, I don't write for the thickos - only for those with great brains & philosophic sensibilities like, er, yours...

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    329.Keith Hudson IMBIDIMTS
    6 Minutes ago
    Perhaps, at some distant date, Marcus Aurelius suilererau sieuarlu will find a lady who likes world wars bores and will his children bear.. his children consenually ...


    Perhaps, at some nearer date, he could come to the Overlord Exhibition that my son runs each May and discus his theories with the Brits, Germans, etc. there

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    325. DavidinUSA "Er - I was being ironic. Surely you don't have to be Socrates to recognize irony?"

    Well actually yes, I hoped so, but there are some who would take your irony at face value. You should realize people have paid him good money to lead "educational" tours of Israel.

  • Comment number 329.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    2 Minutes ago
    In the Pacific, the US went it almost alone.


    Perhaps, at some distant date, your children can go alone to school and will not be seen to need armed gaurds to protect them from their fellow Americans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    320. USSilentMajority. Apparently so silent you all didn't vote in the election Nov 2012.

    Perhaps if you were willing to pay more in taxes, the police would be there when you need them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    323 The others were armed, supplied, fed, financed by the US.Our first problem was just to supply Britain. Stalin's major problem besides money and materiel was the difficulty the US had in launching a land invasion to take pressure off his armies.His function, to keep supplying bodies for the Nazis to shoot at until the US could land in Normandy. In the Pacific, the US went it almost alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    5 Minutes ago
    #215. DavidinUSA "Glenn Beck is probably too intellectual and over-sophisticated...The comedy never ends"

    Er - I was being ironic. Surely you don't have to be Socrates to recognize irony?

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    215. DavidinUSA "Glenn Beck is probably too intellectual and over-sophisticated"

    The comedy never ends

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    Re 318. sieuarlu

    As much as this may shock you, there were other vital international campaigns carried out during the war. I'm not even going to get into how foolish it is that you're claiming the North African, Atlantic, Sicilian and D-day campaigns as exclusively American accomplishments.

    Rather than websites or Hollywood movies, maybe reading an actual history book is in order.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    16 Minutes ago

    Major turning points;ETO; Battle of the Atlantic, North Africa, Sicily, DDay, Battle of the Bulge,PTO; Battle of Coral Sea, Midway, Leyte Gulf,Okinawa,Hiroshima,Nagasaki


    It would be nice if the country for which the people died was one that did not believe it necessary to arm teachers.


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