On Tuesday President Obama, speaking to an audience of families impacted by gun violence, outlined several executive orders his administration is making that will increase regulation of gun sales and likely prevent some guns from getting into the wrong hands. In a riveting speech, Obama reminded us of some of the horrific acts of gun violence perpetrated during his presidency, rebutted the claims that he’s coming for law-abiding citizens’ guns, and he challenged the American people to elect a congress that will take the issues of gun violence seriously.
Under no illusions that the current congress will help strengthen and expand his executive actions, Obama nonetheless forged ahead with a plan to make more gun sellers comply with existing federal regulations, give the FBI more staff dedicated to conducting background checks, and make it easier to track down missing firearms, among several other measures. For more details, read this explainer over at Vox.
My own views on guns can be found here and here. Obama’s hands are tied with a Republican-controlled congress unwilling to deal with the issue of gun violence in our country. But I was happy to hear him explain, as I have, that the 2nd Amendment does not have to mean that anyone can own any gun he or she wants, that a self-governing society has the right to regulate the gun industry and gun ownership, and that just because we can currently sell, buy, and own many kinds of assault weapons that doesn’t mean that we should.
Importantly, Obama made this a political issue. Along with many of us, he appears tired of the idea that gun violence tragedies are isolated occurrences and that we just have to throw up our hands and accept these events as part of living in a free society. He reminded us that 2nd Amendment rights do not void other rights enshrined in the Constitution or render meaningless those most important ideals declared in our founding document, The Declaration of Independence: that everyone has the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Obama called on us to do the hard work of electing a government that will reflect these values, that will find a balance between reasonable 2nd Amendment rights and the outrageous levels of gun violence the US alone among developed countries experiences. Let’s heed his call.