One month and two days after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took the White House stage to announce a new plan aimed at putting an end to gun violence in the US.
The plan represents the biggest push for stricter gun control in decades, as Obama announced-and then signed- 23 executive orders, which need no approval by Congress.
“I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make the proposals a reality,” Obama said during Wednesday’s conference.
Among the executive orders, the President wants to strengthen background checks on gun sales, so that checks are done 100% of the time, as opposed to only 60% currently. He also wants to reinstate the assault weapons ban due to the high casualties they incur. After tragedies like Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Aurora theatre, and most recently, Sandy Hook Elementary, many advocates believe these high caliber weapons should stay out of the hands of civilians. All proposals were based on recommendations made by a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden.
“I have never seen the nation’s conscience so shaken by what happened at Sandy Hook,” Mr. Biden said Wednesday. “The world has changed and is demanding action.”
Turning to mental health, the President’s gun control plan included measures to ensure adequate treatment to those in need, particularly young people. Many of the perpetrators confess to being bullied as youths, and link this as a source of motivation to commit these heinous crimes in school settings. Therefore, Obama’s proposal also appropriately included anti-bullying efforts: more training for teachers, counselors and principals as well as more school counselors and resource officers.
“I will put everything I’ve got into this and so will Joe,” Obama assured the eager audience, which included many relatives of victim’s whose lives were cut short by gun violence. “This time must be different… I tell you the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.”
One victim the President singled out in Wednesday’s conference is 7-year old Grace McDonnell, who was murdered in her school in Newtown.
“Her father gave me one of her paintings, and I hung it in my private study just off the Oval Office,” Obama said.“And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace … I think about how, when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now — for Grace. For the 25 other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give.”
However, the President still faces great hurdles in the battle for gun control. Following last week’s speech, gun rights supporters sharply criticized his proposals as unconstitutional. The National Rifle Association has also declared all-out opposition to the president’s gun proposals, claiming that “attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation.” Instead, the NRA has stressed for more armed guards in schools.
Still, the Newtown shootings have dramatically swayed public opinion, and with current opinion polls showing more sympathy to gun control proposals, Obama called on voters to pressure members of Congress.
“This will not happen unless the American people demand it,” Obama said.