Given that he is renowned for his level-headedness, it was unusual to see President Obama fight back tears on Friday as he spoke about the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn.
After denouncing the “heinous crime” and talking about the “overwhelming grief” he felt as a father, Obama returned twice to the notion that these tragedies are recurring with too much frequency.
“Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children,” Obama said.
He then added the line that is giving a glimmer of hope to gun control advocates.
“We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” Obama said.
The president did not endorse anything specific. But his words are driving speculation that his administration may at last pursue meaningful measures to tighten access to firearms.
It bears remembering that, as Obama said, we have been here before -- not just the period of shock and mourning for an unfathomable tragedy, but also the speculation that some tougher laws will come as a result. People pushed the president to do something after Jared Loughner killed six people and severely wounded Rep. Gabriel Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., and after a gunman opened fire on a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
It was to no avail. Obama has cautiously backed reinstating the ban on assault weapons -- something he was more vocal about before moving into the Oval Office -- but he has not gone beyond words.
Gun control got scarcely a mention during the presidential campaign. When a woman directly asked Obama about an assault weapons ban during a presidential debate, Obama led off his answer by reassuring the audience that he believed in Second Amendment rights.
And despite hysteria among some conservatives about the president’s clandestine plan to gut the Second Amendment, his thin record on the issue has actually bolstered gun rights rather than restricted them. To the dismay of gun control advocates, Obama signed a law allowing people to carry firearms in national parks.
With his second term in hand, President Obama may have more room to tackle the issue. Democratic lawmakers are already pushing the president to act. And New York City Michael Bloomberg, a vocal gun control advocate who has formed the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns, urged Obama to do more.
“[T]he country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem -- and take immediate executive action,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. "We have heard that rhetoric before.”