By Diego Quezada
During the second presidential debate, an undecided voter asked President Barack Obama what he planned to do to curb gun violence. Governor Mitt Romney predictably pivoted to a discussion on families and said that people should get married before having children. But that wasn’t disappointing; it shouldn’t surprise anyone when Romney evades questions. Obama’s slippery response was troubling.
The most Obama said was that he supports a federal assault weapons ban and wants to enforce laws already on the books. But Obama then pivoted to education and began talking about issues not even tangentially related to gun violence, like his administration’s efforts to retrain workers in community colleges.
Is it possible that increased educational opportunities can curb gun violence? Absolutely. But he should do more on this critical issue. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence – the largest gun control lobby in the United States – gave Obama failing grades on every category, from standing up to the gun lobby to background checks to gun trafficking. Obama has actually signed more repeals of federal gun policies than President George W. Bush did in both of his terms.
Obama has faced challenges on many fronts during his first term. He managed to sign into law economic stimulus, the Affordable Care Act and Wall Street reform. He’s also said that failing to pass immigration reform was his biggest regret of his first term. To put the gun issue in perspective, though, consider that 30,000 people die as a result of gun violence every year. One hundred ten thousand total shootings occur every year. Gun violence is a critical issue to this country, and Obama isn’t treating it like one.
People who defend the president on his failure on gun control may point to the fact that the House is Republican-controlled and likely to stay that way for another two years. But most gun owners actually support sensible gun control laws. People on the FBI terror watch lists can buy guns. Why can’t Obama even say that he disapproves of this inane policy and use the “bully pulpit” to offer leadership on gun control? Obama previously shied away from endorsing marriage equality early in his term and finally announced that that supported it on a personal level in May. Obama should also come around on this issue, and at least voice support for ending the gun show loophole – which allows unlicensed sellers to sell used guns without conducting background checks – and other vital measures.
The National Rifle Association sent out a mailer this summer saying that Obama is “coming for our guns.” The sad part is that I actually wish the NRA was right.