Keeping Hope Alive
Yesterday was a very good day for President Obama and potentially for the nation as he announced (video and transcript of press conference, here)
That is why I have asked the Vice President to lead an effort that includes members of my cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January. Proposals that I then intend to push without delay
This is not some Washington Commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for 6 months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside.
This is a team that has a very specific task. To pull together real reforms right now.
I asked Joe to lead this effort in part because he wrote the 1994 crime bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of crime in this country.
That plan, that bill also included the assault weapons band that was publically supported at the time by former presidents including Ronald Reagan
The good news is there is already a growing consensus for us to building from.
A majority of American support banning the sale of military style support weapons. A majority of American support banning the sale of high capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loop holes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility to do a background check at all
I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures next year. In a timely manner.
And considering Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the bureau of alcohol, firearms and tobacco in six years, the agency that works most closely with state and local law enforcement to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals. I suggest that they make this a priority early in the year.
Given the President's order to set up a task force, have it chaired by Vice President Biden, and demand a report- with "concrete proposals"- by the end of January, we can forgive him for maintaining "I believe the 2nd Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms." Erroneously, the Supreme Court agrees with him, by a majority of one. That would be the same majority that shut down vote counting in Florida in 2000, thereby determining that the loser of the national popular vote and the of the popular vote in Florida should be anointed President. And it was the same majority which decided that the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution does not permit the federal government to mandate the purchase of health insurance. Five Justices can be wrong- disastrously wrong.
Following the President's statement, ABC's Jake Tapper unsettled Obama by asking
It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political decision in 2008 [...] to not talk about gun violence, You had your position on renewing the ban on semi-automatic rifles that then-Sen. Biden put in place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years [...] where have you been?
Why, the President was just too busy with other things, Obama replied, contending
Here’s where I’ve been, Jake – I’ve been President of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars — I don’t think I’ve been on vacation. And so I think all of us have to do some reflection how we prioritize what we do here in Washington, and as I said on Sunday, this should be a wakeup call for all of us. If we aren’t getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters.
Even before the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School, plenty of children in this country were not "safe," whether because of attack from a stranger or, more often, someone they know. The President, it seems, has only now awakened to the problem of criminal violence in the nation.
And that is, or should be, a little hard to understand from a President whose defense of his inaction is that there have been other problems (a severe recession, auto industry disintegration, and wars) to which his attention has been drawn. It is not so long ago- four years, roughly- since GOP presidential nominee John McCain asked that a presidential debate be suspended, citing the financial crisis on Wall Street. And when Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama responded by noting "
I believe that we should continue to have the debate. It is my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess. It is going to be part of the president’s job to deal with more than one thing at once.
Then, it was to be "part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once." Now, he has just been too darned busy saving the country while murder and assault remain a daily threat to millions of Americans in their communities.
The irony, of course, in the President's patronizing response is that it came on a day in which he announced a promising new- and vital- initiative. The plan should be welcomed additionally because the group is to focus on one topic (firearms) and therefore is more likely to produce concrete proposals, as the President demands. Consideration of the more abstract issues of mental illness or the coarsening of the culture can take place on a separate front. For now, for this moment, President Obama does seem to have a strategy. It is a start, and is the right place to start.