By Jessica Wade
“Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters or buried their own children. Many have had to learn to live with a disability or learn to live without the love of their life. A number of those people are here today. They can tell you some stories. In this room right here, there are a lot of stories. There’s a lot of heartache. There’s a lot of resilience, there’s a lot of strength, but there’s also a lot of pain. And this is just a small sample.”
President Barack Obama delivered that statement while wiping away tears at an emotional press conference Jan. 5. He was introduced by Mark Barden, the father of Daniel Barden, a first grader killed during the Sandy Hook shooting.
Besides calling attention to the tragic events caused by gun violence in the United States, Obama discussed his plan to stem the ever increasing flow of gun related deaths and crimes. This plan includes making the background check process more effective and efficient, a large investment meant to increase mental health treatment and an initiative to further explore the aspect of technology in gun safety.
“If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?” Obama inquired during his speech.
Guns and the damage they can cause has long been a hot-button topic in the United States. A country where, according to a study conducted by EveryTown Research, 88 Americans are killed by gun violence daily.
“Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally,” Obama said. “In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents, and that includes 30 children younger than 5 years old.”
With such daunting statistics and sound reasoning on his side Obama’s executive action for a safer America, in theory, should be implemented without much friction. In reality however, this is America and Americans don’t always listen to reason when it comes to their unhealthy relationship with firearms.
The president’s speech was met with immediate opposition from both citizens and politicians. Including presidential candidate Donald Trump who claimed that the action was an attack on the second amendment. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stated that Obama was “exceeding his constitutional authority”.
Others opposed to the idea of gun control are, like Trump, pointing to the second amendment for backup; a common defense when it comes to the idea of limiting firearms.
“The President cannot claim to respect the Constitution while at the same time use the swipe of his pen to impose restrictions on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans,” said Congress woman Cynthia Lummis in response to Obama’s executive action. “In Wyoming, we know the value of the Second Amendment and understand its importance for self-defense and safeguarding our liberty. Neither the Republican Congress nor the American people will stand for infringement of these rights.”
Lummis would have a valid argument, if it wasn’t for the fact that the president isn’t infringing on anyone’s constitutional rights.
Obama’s plan will not keep American citizens from their right to bear arms, it will only prevent dangerous weapons from reaching the hands of someone with the potential to kill innocent people.
“I also believe we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment. I mean, think about it — we all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech,” Obama said. “But we accept that you cannot yell “fire” in a theater. We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people.”
President Obama may have made some headway on the issue of gun violence, but as this issue becomes more controversial it sadly becomes more partisan. Whether or not that progress will continue depends greatly on the 2016 presidential election.