One Speech Made By President Obama Years Ago Perfectly Captures How The United States Feels After Charleston
People all around the country have been in a state of mourning over the last few days, following Wednesday's lethal attack on a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people were slain, all of them black, and 21-year-old Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder. It's spurred a lot of discussions: about racial hatred, the Confederate flag, and gun control, the same issue that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012 brought to the forefront. But sadly, change never came: President Obama's post-Sandy Hook gun control pleas just get sadder as time goes by, because clearly they weren't heeded.
Odds are you don't need much introduction to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, as seismic and devastating as it was, but here's a refresher: gunman Adam Lanza killed 27 people, including his mother, 6 faculty members and 20 children, before turning his gun on himself.
The incident precipitated the biggest public push for new gun control reforms by a Democratic White House in years, with President Obama repeatedly urging the Congress to take action on what he viewed as common sense reforms — reinstituting the Federal Assault Weapons Ban which expired in 2004, for example, and expanding background checks on gun sales.
Neither of these ideas would come to pass, however. However earnest and effortful Obama's intentions may have been, it's ultiamtely up to Congress to move on these sorts of issues. And, with a stark majority of the Republican Party in opposition (as well as some Democrats), and the National Rifle Association (NRA)'s lobbying efforts is full force, President Obama's post-Sandy Hook push didn;t result in the passage of a single piece of legislation. After the Senate voted down the background check expansion bill in April 2013, an evidently disgusted Obama addressed reporters in the White House Rose Garden.
Preceded by emotional comments from Mark Barden, a parent of one of the children slain in the shooting, Obama called the occasion of the Senate's vote a "pretty shameful day for Washington."
I've heard some say that blocking this step would be a "victory." And my question is: a victory for who, a victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without background checks. That didn't make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?
I've heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was misplaced. "A prop," somebody called them. "Emotional blackmail," some outlets said. Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don't have a right to weigh in on this issue? Do we think that their emotion, their loss is not relevant to this debate? So, all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington. But this effort is not over.
If you have the time, the full speech is worth taking a look at. It's one of Obama's most unreservedly, overtly hostile messages, with his obvious frustration with Republican obstinence on gun control boiling over.
However, for all a President can try to do with rhetoric, they can't force a Congress to act — neither expanded background checks nor the Federal Assault Weapons Ban have gained any traction in the years since. As detailed by The New York Times, Obama's weariness over the issue was apparent while discussing the Charleston shooting on Thursday afternoon, striking a similar tone to that April afternoon two years ago.
At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now.
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