President Barack Obama addressed the nation Thursday night in an effort to ease the nation’s mourning over the senseless Oregon mass murder. As expected, Obama soberly acknowledged the victim’s families, then thanked first responders and law enforcement that arrived at the scene to save lives and restore order. He then offered apologies and prayer for the victims, however, next he abandoned the usual script that accompanies any post-tragedy speech and in a unconventional move admitted, “our thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
Obama spoke disparagingly about the way the country deals with mental illness and the nation’s inability to offer a solution to the relationship between crime and mental illness. He then went on to confront gun control laws and challenged congress and even gun owners to support him. The president said the failure to pass gun safety laws is one of the greatest frustrations of his presidency. “I would particularly ask America’s gun owners, who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, or protecting their families, to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you,” he said.
“If you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun safety laws, even in the face of repeated mass killings,” Obama told the BBC back in July. Obama referenced his speech and added that he hoped he wouldn’t have to make another condolence speech for another mass killing before relinquishing his presidential duties next year.
While it is primarily acceptable to stick to a routine speech outline, I believe Obama’s going off script will result in a higher approval rating. Although Americans enjoy their guns and the NRA is a very powerful organization, as a nation we are near the point of numbness due to the useless yet repeated mass killings that seem to happen in a different suburb in a different state in a different quadrant of the county every few months.
“This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. The notion that gun violence is somehow different — that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt, and protect their families, and do everything they do under such regulations —doesn’t make sense,” he said.
While it is easier for Obama to take such a stance in the final lap of his presidency, I can appreciate his willingness to make a stand on something that is one of the biggest maladies plaguing the nation. Gun control is something that needs to be addressed in a multi-dimensional way in our country as it relates to gun owners and our police departments. As our president stated tonight, the constant violence and our refusal to make change simply “doesn’t make sense.”