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Americans witnessed something highly unusual on Tuesday: They watched President Obama cry.
In an uncharacteristic display of emotion, Obama wiped away tears streaming from his face as he spoke about mass murders in America and challenging gun control laws in the last year of his presidency.
The president’s bold gun control initiative could save lives across the country – white lives, black lives, Hispanic lives, Asian lives, Muslim and Jewish lives – and the lives of children.
“First graders,” Obama said of the young children shot to death in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.”
“And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day,” Obama said, referring to the rising number of Black teenagers falling victim to an uptick of gun violence in his native city.
Unable to convince Congress that stricter gun control laws could eliminate unnecessary deaths, Obama unveiled a plan through executive action to expand background checks to cover more firearms sold at gun shows and online.
Obama artfully sidestepped Congress. He reminded Americans that while he does respect the Second Amendment, he’s determined to prevent more mass shootings.
As usual, Democrats celebrated Obama’s plan while conservatives bashed the president’s efforts saying he has overstepped his legal authority, calling it “lawless” and “unconstitutional.”
Under current law, according to the Associated Press, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers, but many who sell guns at flea markets, on websites or in other informal settings don’t register as dealers.
In the final year of his presidency, Obama, who has been met with obstacles by Congress at every turn, is determined to curb gun violence.
“Gun violence has taken a heartbreaking toll on too many communities across the country,” the White House said in a statement. “Over the past decade in America, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence—and millions more have been the victim of assaults, robberies, and other crimes involving a gun.”
“Many of these crimes were committed by people who never should have been able to purchase a gun in the first place,” the White House said.
Specifically, according to the White House, here is what Obama is proposing:
*The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making clear that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks.
*Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has sent a letter to states highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified because of a mental illness, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient. The envisioned improvements include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun. The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.
Republican presidential contenders are now threatening to repeal any executive actions that Obama takes on gun control if their party’s candidate should replace him in the White House.
But what should Obama do –nothing? Should he just sit back and become a lame-duck president and limp through his last year in office?
Or should he circumvent Congress and take a stand on issues like gun control that could ultimately help prevent mass murders?
“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” Obama said. “Congress still needs to act. The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does.”
In his final year in office, the president has chosen to courageously challenge existing gun laws in an effort to protect all Americans. And the way I see it, that’s real leadership.
What do you think?