S. E. Williams
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012, introduced President Obama Tuesday, January 5, as the president prepared to announce his Executive Actions on the issue of guns.
During his introduction, Barden referenced the devastating defeat of bi-partisan gun legislation introduced in Congress in the wake of that tragedy. The legislation was supported by 90 percent support of the American public and at least 90 percent of Democratic legislators; and yet, it was defeated as a result of 90 percent opposition from Republican representatives.
In speaking about that defeat Barden said, “The president made a promise to not give up after congress blocked gun legislation after Sandy Hook.” He went on to affirm how because of the president’s promise, “Our feelings of despair were replaced with feelings of hope.”
When he took the podium, the President spoke about how the incident at Sandy Hook, “Changed me that day.” He reminded America, “Every gun related death is preventable. We need your help. We need everybody engaged in this.”
The president reflected on the thirteen mass shootings that have occurred since he was sworn in as president in 2009. He spoke about the individual killings that occur every day in communities across this country.
“America is not the only country on earth with violent or dangerous people,” he said. “We are not inherently prone to violence; but, we are the only advanced country to see this type of violence erupt with such frequency. No other developed country is even close,’ he continued. “Somehow, we have become numb to it. This is not normal. Instead of thinking about how to solve the problem this has become one of our most polarizing, public debates.”
The president reminded everyone he is not on the ballot again and that he was not looking to score political points. “We do have to feel a sense of urgency,” he said and continued, “We need to feel the fierce urgency of now because people are dying.”
His actions on Tuesday will enforce the need for all gun owners to have a license and background checks for gun buyers. The FBI will overhaul the background check system and bring it into the 21st century in order to enhance its efficiency. He will clarify the rules for reporting lost or stolen guns; it will require businesses to get a license to sell and conduct background checks. It will require background checks for people buying weapons through a trust or corporation. It renews domestic violence outreach efforts and funds new research on gun safety technology. He will also request additional funding from congress to address mental health issues.
What his Executive Action will not do is require background checks for every gun sale; ban gun sales to people on no fly lists; or, ban large capacity magazines as hoped for by many. Those types of changes require congressional action.
According to the president, his Executive Actions were not designed in response to the last mass shooting but to do something to try and prevent the next one. He expressed his belief the vast majority of Americans, even if their voices are often drowned out by gun lobbyists, do in fact care enough to come together and take common sense steps to save lives and protect more of America’s children.
Throughout the presentation, his comments were received with standing ovations, loud murmurs of support in the “call and response” tradition of African American churches and vigorous nods of approval.
Almost as to preempt his critics the President said, “We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world; but, maybe we can try to stop one act of evil. One act of violence.” In other words, if his executive action will save one life it is worth it.
There is no question the President’s decision to act on his own will be met with legal challenges and an abundance of criticism. Sadly, however, since the December 2nd attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, more than 2.5 million background checks have been requested and at least 1.5 million guns sold.
Throughout the presentation, the president appeared passionate and unguarded. At one point he unabashedly teared-up when he reflected on the massacre at Sandy Hook. He also reminded the audience that everyone has a role to play in fighting for change on this issue.
“All of us need to demand a congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.,” he said. “All of us need to stand up and protect our citizens. All of us need to demand governors, legislators and businessmen do their parts to make our country safer.” He concluded, “We need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented, to join with us to demand something better.”