The right would rather mock Obama for his tears than respond to the content of what he was saying about our problem with guns in this country

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Today, while announcing the gun control reforms he intends to pass by way of executive order, President Obama became emotional. He got to the point in his speech where he referenced the first-graders who were killed a few years ago in Newtown, Connecticut, and, because he’s a decent man, and a caring father, he began to cry. This simple display of humanity, judging from what I’m now seeing online, wasn’t universally well-received. Some, like Fox News host Andrea Tantaros, are suggesting that his tears were fake. And, on social media, people are calling his show of emotion, “pathetic, weak and dishonest.” Few on the right, however, at least from what I have seen, are responding point-by-point to the common sense reforms he laid out for the American people. And I find that telling.

As for Obama’s tears, I like having a President that cannot just easily breeze by a reference to 20 murdered first-graders, and I agree with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote after the speech, “We should all be crying about 32,000 American gun deaths a year.” We not only need fewer guns in this country, but more empathy. And I like having a President who can fight for the first while modeling the second. I know I’ve been critical of Obama in the past, but I do think, when all is said and done, he will go down as one of the greatest leaders this nation of ours has ever known.

Here, if you’ve yet to see it, is the President’s speech, followed by a few of my favorite excerpts from the transcript. I especially liked the part where he said that second amendment rights should not outweigh other rights we enjoy as U.S. citizens, like the right to worship freely… a right that was denied to the members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, who were gunned down during prayer service.

…Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start — and I’ve said this over and over again, this also becomes routine, there is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do — I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there, written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around — I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this — (applause) — I get it. But I also believe that 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, but we accept that you can’t yell “fire” in a theater. We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people…

All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. (Applause.) And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek. (Applause.) They had rights, too. (Applause.)

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun…

Two United States Senators -– Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, both gun owners, both strong defenders of our Second Amendment rights, both with “A” grades from the NRA –- that’s hard to get — worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our Vice President, who has been a champion on this for a long time, to write a common-sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check. That was it. Pretty common-sense stuff. Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea. Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea. But it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.

How did this become such a partisan issue? Republican President George W. Bush once said, “I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.” Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole, saying, “We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws.” Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks. And by the way, most of its members still do. Most Republican voters still do.

How did we get here? How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?

Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying. I reject that thinking. (Applause.) We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence…

I mean, some of this is just simple math. Yes, the gun lobby is loud and it is organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody, any time. Well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate. We have to be just as organized in defense of our kids. This is not that complicated. The reason Congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections. And if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws, they’ll change course, I promise you. (Applause.)

And, yes, it will be hard, and it won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen during this Congress. It won’t happen during my presidency. But a lot of things don’t happen overnight. A woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight. The liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight. LGBT rights — that was decades’ worth of work. So just because it’s hard, that’s no excuse not to try.

And if you have any doubt as to why you should feel that “fierce urgency of now,” think about what happened three weeks ago. Zaevion Dobson was a sophomore at Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. He played football; beloved by his classmates and his teachers. His own mayor called him one of their city’s success stories. The week before Christmas, he headed to a friend’s house to play video games. He wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time. He hadn’t made a bad decision. He was exactly where any other kid would be. Your kid. My kids. And then gunmen started firing. And Zaevion — who was in high school, hadn’t even gotten started in life — dove on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets. And he was shot in the head. And the girls were spared. He gave his life to save theirs –- an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old. “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We are not asked to do what Zaevion Dobson did. We’re not asked to have shoulders that big; a heart that strong; reactions that quick. I’m not asking people to have that same level of courage, or sacrifice, or love. But if we love our kids and care about their prospects, and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote. We can find the courage to get mobilized and organized. We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do.

That’s what we’re doing today. And tomorrow, we should do more. And we should do more the day after that. And if we do, we’ll leave behind a nation that’s stronger than the one we inherited and worthy of the sacrifice of a young man like Zaevion. (Applause.)…

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8 Comments

  1. Meta
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Breitbart’s John Nolte: “Obama touching eyes JUST BEFORE tears came… He’s putting something in his eyes to create the fascist tears.”

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/2016/01/05/conservatives-mock-obama-for-crying-about-child/207764

  2. The Relevant
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    http://imgur.com/fQqYJI2

  3. J.
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    “We not only need fewer guns in this country, but more empathy. And I like having a President who can fight for the first while modeling the second.”

    Amen.

  4. Brad Hodgins
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    While I disagree with many of Obama’s policies, I agree with everything he laid out in his plan. I believe in the 2nd amendment, but feel that we need much better control over who has access to guns. I also find it interesting that the people attacking his speech (I’ve seen comparisons to Hitler on Facebook), don’t attack what he actually said. I just don’t think they are even watching. Their contempt prior to investigation is the ultimate in ignorance. It’s a sad state of affairs when we can’t have a civil discussion about the issues without involving all of our prejudices and bias.

  5. Sean
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    *Sorry for the long response. I had a lot on my mind…

    Anyone who mocks Obama’s tears severely lacks understanding for the scope of gun violence and its victims. I take that back, because every politician, pundit, and citizen has seen/met/applauded Gabby Giffords. Let me rephrase: Anyone who mocks Obama’s tears doesn’t give a damn about the victims of gun violence. Before his speech, President Obama was introduced by Mark Barden, whose son was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre. He has been mocked by pro-gun activists, he has been called a liar, Sandy Hook has been labeled a hoax and an inside job -a liberal lie to justify repealing the 2nd Amendment and confiscating guns. Some Right Wing extremists will conjure any excuse and conspiracy to protect and broaden gun ownership, and their views should never become mainstream. When a Fox News pundit questions Obama’s emotional response, it should not be dismissed, it should be condemned.

    The Pittsburgh paper, The Tribune Review, asked a gun dealer what he thought of Obama’s proposal: “‘It’s a crock,” said Fred Burgdolt, owner of A.R.H. Sport Shop in Claysville and the host of a gun show this weekend. “There are so many laws out there right now that aren’t enforced. Anybody can get a gun in this country if they want a gun. Honest people never go out and cause problems.'” He begins by agreeing that there’s a gun problem in America -that gun laws are not enforced. Then, he agrees that there’s too many assholes with guns. But, then he argues that honest people will somehow be negatively effected by the expansion of background checks? Why? Because some of these ‘decent patriots’ have a checkered past? Because they’ve broke a law here or there? According to FBI.gov, “Currently, 92% of Brady background checks through NICS are completed while the FBI is still on the phone with the gun dealer.” So, the whole of society should be at risk because a flea market dealer doesn’t want to make a 10 minute phone call? His argument boils down to: gun show attendees are good people/bad people would never attend a gun show. Which, is an insane point of view for a gun dealer to have. Essentially, this guy believes, and wants us to believe, that he can judge a complete stranger’s character and life history just by looking at him, and doesn’t need a meddling, faulty, bureaucratic system to say otherwise. This responsible guy is, in fact, completely jaded and dangerously reckless.

    In 2012, the ATF released a report on “missing” firearms from 2008-2010. They only surveyed 20% of licenced gun dealers over a 3-year period, but found 62,132 guns “missing” from their inventories. I have yet to hear a argument justifying these inconsistencies, but I have heard many politicians saying that they would repeal every gun measure Obama signs into law. Everyone understands that, “lost or stolen” really means “gifted or sold;” so, what is really at stake here is accountability: whether a person should be tried or convicted of a crime if they supplied the weapon used in a shooting. Gun owners are so terrified of this prospect, that they would rather have no oversight whatsoever.

    All of this adds up to the gun enthusiast bond, a veil of trust. The only way that they can justify owning, selling, or gifting a gun is if everyone involved is a saint. They have to believe it. There can be no distrust, because suspicion justifies regulation, it leads to governmental intervention, it can break apart the whole conspiracy of silence. That’s the truth behind why we can’t prevent the massacre: there’s too many dirty hands.

  6. David Palmer
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully the federal government and private industry’s role as the world’s leading arms supplier is someday included in this conversation. It’s not a coincidence that we are the most violent nation in the world both at home and abroad.

  7. Peter Larson
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    We need more guns and less empathy. The weak should be killed in the streets. The winners will survive.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Great video from a man who was in the room with the President when he gave this speech about his sincerity.

    https://www.facebook.com/ResponsibleGuns/videos/933525666695575/

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] President Obama for his incremental moves to bring sanity back to the conversation by actually talking openly about the societal costs associated with gun violence and suggesting that we do the unthinkable and lift the federal ban on related research. So, when I […]

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