Joe Biden will lead a group that will make recommendations to Obama in January. Obama promised that he would discuss the issue in his State of the Union address as well. Obama has been reluctant to take on this thorny issue. Gun control advocates have been disappointed in Obama's lack of action on gun violence up until now. There have been four mass shootings during his first term.
that he will act on proposals without delay
“This time, the words need to lead to action. We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. . . . But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.”
Public anger and sorrow is still strong after a lone gunman, Adam Lanza, killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton Connecticut and six others, including his mother at her home, and himself . No doubt new proposals will include restrictions or a ban on assault weapons and also high capacity magazines. Thorough background checks will be advocated as well, probably emphasizing mental health issues. Some of Obama's statements seem hardly capable of being made into any acceptable operational policies. For example, he demands a close look “at a culture that, all too often, glorifies guns and violence.”
was careful to note that he supports the Second Amendment constitutional right to bear arms. He claims that he only desires to keep "weapons of war" out of the hands of a few irresponsible people:
“There is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all, and that space is what Joe’s going to be working on to try to identify where we’ll find some common ground."
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a strong advocate of gun controls, said he was very encouraged by Obama's remarks and that "The country needs his leadership if we are going to reduce the daily bloodshed from gun violence that we have seen for too long." Obama's choice of Biden to lead the working group is not surprising as Biden helped draft a 1994 crime bill that banned assault weapons. However, the bill had a sunset clause and expired in 2004
After earlier mass shootings, the National Rifle Association has remained adamant in opposing increased controls on guns but this time the situation seems different. While a more extensive news conference is scheduled for this Friday, the group
has already released a statement that is much more promising than before.
"Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.
"The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.
"The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21."
While the phraseology is certainly vague, it nevertheless does explicitly say that the group wants to support actions that will make sure that this never happens again. Government officials are no doubt talking behind the scenes to find any common ground between the group and the administration.
At first sight, Obama seems to have a difficult if not impossible road ahead in attempting to introduce more gun controls. In 2010
only 44% of Americans supported more gun controls. After mass shootings, support for gun control has declined rather than increased in the past. However, these facts are actually quite misleading.
When people are asked if they support specific controls
on guns a quite different picture emerges. A vast majority support background checks and not allowing those with mental illness to have guns. A majority also support a ban on assault weapons. Obama may be correct when he claims that the general public is on his side. We will see on Friday how far the National Rifle Association is willing to move towards more controls.