Obama: ‘The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse’
Spurred by a horrific elementary school shooting, President Barack Obama tasked his administration Wednesday with digging into the complex issue and coming out with some concrete proposals to reduce gun violence.
In a discussion on KIRO Radio’s Ross and Burbank Show immediately following the president’s announcement, host Luke Burbank said he thought the president had a useful focus in the message about doing what we can.
“What the president said is if there’s one thing we can do, we have to do it,” said Burbank. “I feel like the perfect has become the enemy of the good in this conversation a lot of the time.”
Obama said we may never know all the reasons for the deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn. But that we do know that every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence.
“We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society, and if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation, all of us, to try,” Obama said.
The president, who exerted little political capital on gun control during his first term, also pressed Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. He also called for stricter background checks for people who seek to purchase weapons and limited high capacity clips.
“The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence,” said Obama.
Appealing to gun owners, Obama said he believes in the Second Amendment and the country’s strong tradition of gun ownership. And he said “the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible.”
“I am also betting that the majority, the vast majority, of responsible law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war,” Obama said.
In the tragedy in Newtown, 20 children and six adults were killed when a man carrying a military-style rifle stormed Sandy Hook Elementary.
Burbank said he’s always been on the side of assault weapons being a type of weaponry that should be reserved for war.
“They’re not made for people to carry around in densely populated areas of this country,” he said. “People say sometimes, ‘Well yeah but that’s only 2 percent of the crimes that are committed that’s not going to fix everything.’ And it isn’t, but it’s something. And to me we can’t shoot down ideas that will make a small difference because they’re not going to solve the entire problem.”
“This time, the words need to lead to action,” Obama said. He tasked Vice President Joe Biden with leading an administration-wide effort to create the new recommendations and pledged to push for their implementation without delay.
Obama also tasked the Biden-led team with considering ways to improve mental health resources and address ways to create a culture that doesn’t promote violence. The departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, along with outside groups and lawmakers, will all be part of the process.
Biden’s prominent role in the process could be an asset for the White House in getting gun legislation through Congress. The vice president spent decades in the Senate and has been called on by Obama before to use his long-standing relationships with lawmakers to build support for White House measures.
The president challenged the National Rifle Association, the country’s most powerful gun lobby and key backer of many Republican politicians, to join the broader effort to reduce gun violence as well.
“Hopefully they’ll do some self-reflection,” Obama said of the NRA.
The NRA made its first comments since the shooting on Tuesday, promising to offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
Obama said that while taking the necessary steps to reduce gun violence would take commitment and compromise, he said it could be achieved if Washington summons “even one tiny iota of the courage of those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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