U.S. President Barack Obama’s tearful address to the nation mourning 26 deaths at a Connecticut elementary school Friday was not enough to quell rising calls for stricter gun control. Quickly gaining steam is a petition to the White House to crack down on policies that make it easy for dangerous people to get their hands on the weapons that make mass shootings just as easy.
“We petition the obama administration to immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of gun legislation in Congress,” the White House petition reads. It attracted the 25,000 signatures needed for a formal White House statement in just hours Friday. The number has since swelled to more than 90,000.
“While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths," the petition reads. “Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution's intended purpose of the right to bear arms. Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to discuss tighter gun-control policies on Friday after the Connecticut mass shooting, saying the conversation should be focused on the memory of the people killed and their loved ones. It is something Carney has had occasion to say before, as five of the 12 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history have taken place in the first four years of the Obama administration, based on figures compiled by the Washington Post.
Mass shootings have been especially frequent this year. On July 20, James Eagan Holmes, a former medical student, shot and killed 12 people at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. On Aug. 5, Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, burst into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, where he shot and killed six people before taking his own life. And on Tuesday -- just three days before the Connecticut school massacre -- a masked Jacob Roberts shot and killed two people in a shopping mall in Portland before committing suicide in one of its stores.
Left-wing pundits aren’t blaming Obama for the mass shootings that have occurred on his watch, but they are taking issue with his lack of leadership on the issue.
Nate Silver, the statistician and writer who predicted Obama’s victory in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, blamed the lack of decisive action on how the conversation has changed in recent years.
Now, Silver wrote in the New York Times on his FiveThirtyEight blog, the National Rifle Association is leading conservatives into believing any conversation at all about level-headed gun ownership makes them victims of an oppressive government. The national discussion has become increasingly polarized since the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999, and the political rhetoric has been shaped along with it.
“‘Gun control,’ a relatively neutral term, has been used less and less often. But more politically charged phrases, like ‘gun violence’ and ‘gun rights,’ have become more common. Those who advocate greater restrictions on gun ownership may have determined that their most persuasive argument is to talk about the consequences of increased access to guns -- as opposed to the weedy debate about what rights the Second Amendment may or may not convey to gun owners,” Silver wrote after the most recent gun-related massacre on Friday.
“For opponents of stricter gun laws, the debate has increasingly become one about Constitutional protections," Silver wrote. “Certainly, many opponents of gun control measures also argue that efforts to restrict gun ownership could backfire in various ways or will otherwise fail to reduce violence. But broadly speaking, they would prefer that the debate be about what they see as Constitutional rights, rather than the utilitarian consequences of gun control measures.”