Gun supporters in the United States have taken such commanding control of the issue that a Democratic president of the United States is afraid to push for gun control even after a horrendous gun massacre that left 12 people dead and more than 50 injured.
President Obama gave a speech this week in which he said we should be able to come together to keep assault rifles off the street—but he also said he was a supporter of the Second Amendment, as if he had a lobbyist from the National Rifle Association whispering in his ear. He made no efforts to encourage Congress to pass legislation or even talk about it. His reluctance is somewhat odd, since the gun lobby has erected him as the great enemy over the last four years—meaning he’s unlikely to find extra votes among gun owners relieved that he declined to take up the issue this year.
But members of Congress who are staunch gun control advocates are reluctant to criticize the president for avoiding the issue in the wake of the Aurora shooting. Perhaps recognizing the tightness of the upcoming election, they don’t see the need to add another burden on Obama’s shoulders.
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“I do believe the President of the United States … believes in what we believe in,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, whose husband was killed in a gun massacre on the Long Island Railroad in 1993. “But there are other things that, right now, [are] on everybody else’s plate.”
Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois is one of the most vocal gun reformers in Congress, but Quigley is reluctant to raise his voice to Obama on the issue.
“I will continue to encourage him to play a role,” Quigley told TheHill.com. “I’m not trying to be funny, I just don’t know what else to do.”
In an election year, Congress is reluctant to take up any issues of substance—even if it’s on an issue that’s foremost in the nation’s mind after vicious killings like those committed in Aurora. Democrats believe they los control of the House in 1994 after they passed an assault weapons ban—a ban that might have prevented alleged shooter James Holmes from buying an AR-15 assault rifle and a magazine that contained 100 rounds.
“The bigger the clips, the more people are going to get killed,” said McCarthy.
Quigley said he couldn’t even get Democratic leaders to hold a Congressional hearing on the issue three years ago when they controlled both chambers of Congress.
“I never thought the issue would get to this point where we can’t even have a conversation,” he said.
Quigley conceded that Congress will never be able to stop all gun killings, “but you tell me we can’t even talk about it? That’s crazy.”
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), another long-time gun reform advocate, said because Obama isn’t fighting proactively for new laws is no excuse for Congress to back off.
“That’s where it falls, it falls in the Congress. And we’ll carry on, [and] he’ll be with us 100 percent of the way,” Lautenberg added.
But Quigley wasn’t so quick to let the president off easy.
“He’s one-third player in this,” Quigley said, “so he has to play a role.”