W ith a much-needed call for sweeping measures to stem gun violence, President Obama has tapped into a strong national sentiment that enough is enough in the wake of the horrific mass shootings that left 20 New England first graders dead.
If Americans of every background stand up and say, ‘enough,' . . . then change will come, the president said at the White House in announcing his plan. He was joined by families of several children killed in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
In the days leading up to the formal announcement of Obama's push for universal gun-buyer background checks, restoring the ban on military-style assault weapons, and outlawing high-capacity ammunition clips, more than half of Americans polled said they were more supportive of gun control following the December school shootings.
Now, the question is whether that widespread support translates into congressional action in the face of still-fierce resistance from the National Rifle Association and its gun-rights allies.
While savvy enough to know that there's no predicting success in Congress, the president clearly improved his chances for achieving real reform by offering a comprehensive approach. He also moved swiftly to enact some interim reforms by executive order.
The president's $500 million plan not only embraces limits on the types of weapons used in recent mass shootings, but also provides for smart steps to keep guns out of the hands of individuals suffering from mental illness.
In a deft parry to a despicable NRA ad that exploits the security provided Obama's daughters, the president countered the wacky NRA notion that armed police should be stationed in every school with a more measured proposal to add funding for 1,000 officers in select schools. Better school-safety measures also could come through the greater flexibility Obama ordered for existing federal grants.
By executive order, the president also assures better tracing of guns used in crimes, which will help stem trafficking; improved federal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands; and a greater understanding of what leads to gun violence through research.
That hardly sounds like a strategy of attacking firearms and ignoring children, as the NRA contends. Moreover, the president's approach parallels initiatives that progressive states are moving to enact.
New York officials have approved a package of gun regulations that expand that state's assault-weapons ban, limit bullet clips, and expand efforts to prevent the mentally ill from getting access to weapons.
As the focus shifts to Congress, the challenge will be to keep fresh the albeit painful memory of Newtown's young. That should help fuel a sense of urgency that, as Obama said, when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now.
The Philadelphia Inquirer