Washington – US President Barack Obama wept openly on Tuesday as he urged America to wake up to the need to tackle the gun violence that claims tens of thousands of lives in the country each year.
Tears streamed down Obama’s cheeks as he summoned the memory of the 20 elementary school children slaughtered three years ago in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” the president said. “So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.”
Obama invoked the memory of Martin Luther King jnr as he outlined a raft of executive measures to regulate gun sales and curb illicit purchases, bypassing opposition from Congress. “We do have to feel a sense of urgency about it. In Dr King’s words, we need to feel the fierce urgency of now, because people are dying,” he said.
“And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do.”
Obama warned the US gun lobby cannot be allowed to block government action.
“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” he said.
Meanwhile, the gun control measures a tearful Obama announced would not have prevented the slaughter of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, or 14 county workers at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.
Obama’s executive action expands mandatory background checks to gun shows, flea markets and online sales, adds more than 230 examiners and staff to help process them and calls on states to submit accurate and updated criminal history data.
Those measures are seen as crucial to stemming gun suicides – the cause of two-thirds of gun deaths – by blocking immediate access to weapons.
But, a review shows, they would have had no impact in keeping weapons from the hands of suspects in several of the deadliest recent mass shootings that have spurred calls for tighter gun control. The shooters at Sandy Hook and San Bernardino used weapons purchased by others, shielding them from background checks. In other cases, the shooters legally bought guns.
In Aurora and at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC, men undergoing mental health treatment were cleared to purchase weapons because federal background checks look to criminal histories and court-ordered commitments for signs of mental illness. The Obama administration is making changes in that realm by seeking to plug certain Social Security Administration data into the background check system and by helping states report more information about people barred from gun possession for mental health reasons.
Though the moves probably wouldn’t have prevented recent mass shootings, Obama rejected the idea that undermines the changes. “We maybe can’t save everybody, but we could save some,” Obama said. – AFP