US President Obama has found himself in between a political rock and a hard place, only days before he is officially sworn in as the nation’s leader for a second term.
The US leader presented a set of new strong gun control measures yesterday that he hopes to implement in the wake of the recent fatal shooting of young children at a school in Connecticut.
Mr Obama presented the measures, a response to public outcry over a string of recent shootings, at the White House. Relatives and friends of the 20 first-graders and their six teachers, who were repeatedly shot at by an armed gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary last month, were among those in the audience.
“If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try,” the leader vowed, adding, “this is our first task as a society.”
“Keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.” he said.
The new proposed measures include the reinstatement of a ban on military assault weapons and rifles, stronger criminal background checks for gun owners, laws to prohibit gun trafficking across state lines, caps on the sale of gun ammunitions, hiring of more security staff and counsellors at schools across the country, and an increase in research around gun violence and improvements to mental health services available.
23 of the new initiatives, which don’t require congressional approval, were signed off and pushed through immediately. But even the president himself acknowledged that “it will be difficult” to implement them, especially because of gun lobbyists’ stronghold over members in Congress.
“There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty – not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves” Obama said.
“And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever,” he added.
In a nation where gun ownership rates are one of the highest in the world, and the right to bear arms is enshrined in their constitution, some view the new laws as an encroachment on their civil liberties.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country’s strongest gun lobbyist organisation (which incidentally has signed up 100,00 new members since the Sandy Hook shooting), were quick to criticise the president’s comments. They argued that the proposals were “not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation”.
“Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy,” the group said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, the NRA launched a scathing attack on Mr Obama through a web advert that accused the president of being an “elitist hypocrite” for not committing to having armed gunmen present in US schools, but hiring secret service protection for his own two daughters.
However, recent polls are reportedly showing a shift in US public sentiment in favour of harsher gun control measures. In the wake of the recent tragic school shooting, many are speculating that the Obama government is hoping to take advantage of the changing mood for action.
Do you agree with Obama’s proposed gun law changes? Will they be enough to stop tragic shooting like that at Sandy Hook Elementary from happening again? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or join the discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages.