President Obama has been in heavy campaign mode lately, but he stayed away from politics during a Friday morning speech addressing the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
If there's anything to take away from this tragedy it's the reminder that life is very fragile, Obama told a crowd in Fort Myers, Florida. Our time here is limited and it's precious, and what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it's not the trivial things which so often consume us in our daily lives.
While he pushed for stricter gun control laws earlier in his career, President Obama has largely left the issue alone during his White House tenure. After the Arizona shooting that nearly claimed the life of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Obama went no further than an op-ed calling for better background checks and more comprehensive data on gun purchases.
Obama did not make any mention of gun control in the State of the Union address following the shooting, and although his administration gestured towards the matter -- top adviser David Plouffe told NBC that It's a very important issue, and one I know there's going to be debate about on the Hill -- nothing concrete came of it.
Instead, Obama has consistently taken to calling for better enforcement of existing laws, treading a middle ground that doesn't risk antagonizing gun owners. He also signed a bill allowing people to carry loaded, concealed firearms at public parks. He has not followed through on Attorney General Eric Holder's suggestion that the administration would seek to re-instate an expired ban on assault weapons.
After the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed a 17-year-old in Florida, prompted a national discussion about the Stand Your Ground law that initially allowed Martin's killer to walk free, Obama did not specifically take a stance on the law. He underscored the need to hold a thorough investigation and to examine the laws and the context for what happened before making his now-infamous if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon observation.
His lack of forcefulness on gun control hasn't diminished some of the paranoia emanating from pro-Second Amendment groups. Excise tax receipts for new firearms soared after Obama's 2009 election, potentially due to fears of a gun crackdown, and National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre has warned ominously that everything gun owners across America have fought to achieve over the past three decades could be lost if Obama wins a second term.
The president faced a backlash during the 2008 presidential election when he said in a speech that some bitter Americans cling to guns, prompting accusations of elitism.