In a tearful speech delivered on Jan. 5, President Barack Obama condemned the numerous instances of gun violence that have affected the nation and passionately explained the necessity of a national “sense of urgency” to limit such violence.
“In Dr. King’s words,” Obama began during his Tuesday address, “we need to feel the fierce urgency of now because people are dying.”
Vowing to address the issue with or without the help of Congress, Obama put forward several steps and executive actions to help reduce the incidence of gun violence in the US.
First, Obama stressed that anybody selling firearms must obtain a license and conduct rigorous background checks on those purchasing firearms.
Second, Obama called for the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already in place and the employment of 200 more ATF agents and investigators. Additionally, he demanded that more firearms dealers report lost or stolen guns.
Third, Obama promised to better aid those suffering from mental illness, noting the hope that everyone will eventually be able to get the help they need.
Finally, emphasizing the longterm nature of the address, Obama called for better gun safety technology, explaining that many shootings nationwide occur as results of accidents and the mishandling of firearms.
“It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen during this congress. It won’t happen during my presidency,” Obama explained. “But a lot of things don’t happen overnight. The women’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight. The liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight. LGBT rights — that was decades worth of work. So just cause it’s hard — that’s no excuse not to try.”
Following Obama’s earlier response to the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. that happened at the beginning of Dec. 2015, national gun sales rose to heights rarely seen in the last two decades, with roughly 1.6 million firearms sold in the month of December, continuing a pattern where fear of gun-buying restrictions leads to elevated monthly sales, according to recently released federal data.
This trend was last observed in Jan. 2013, following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, with about 2 million firearms sold, and in 2008 during the month of President Obama’s election, with about 1.1 million sales, indicating the relationship between calls for restriction and gun purchases.
Despite President Obama’s intentions, the efficacy of his steps have been called into question by many lobbyists and pro-guns politicians.
“The American people do not need more emotional, condescending lectures that are completely devoid of facts,” stated Chris W. Cox, the National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist.
Though his strong voice on such a divisive issue has generated much polarity, and though the outcomes of the steps he proposed cannot be known, President Obama has placed gun violence at the top of his priorities.
“Each time this comes up,” Obama began, “we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying. I reject that thinking. We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”