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Sandy Hook school massacre presents fresh challenge to Obama

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 12/19/2012, 7:07 a.m.

Sandy Hook school massacre presents fresh challenge to Obama

A compassionate and tearful President Obama minced no words following the Newtown, Conn., school massacre and demanded action. Though Obama did not specify what action he had in mind, the action that will again spark colossal debate is how to crack down on the senseless gun violence that has caused indescribable pain and suffering for so many innocent victims.

The usual suspects were quick to pounce with their silly “guns don’t kill, people kill” line. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has loudly called for Obama and Congress to enact new and tougher gun control laws, quickly jumped back into the gun control fray and made the same call again.

As the names and faces of the children and the others gunned down in the horrific school massacre become known, a legion of voices will also demand that gun control be shoved back on the White House and congressional table. This is where things again will get thorny.

The assumption is that the NRA and the gun lobby is so all-powerful and financially well-heeled that it can beat back any congressional move to impose tougher restrictions on gun access. It’s certainly done a masterful job at that. The NRA did not issue an official statement on the massacre, other than a terse one-liner that it would wait until all the facts are in. But that didn’t stop other gun control opponents from denouncing calls for tougher gun laws and gearing up for a round of talk show appearances to tout their view.

But the NRA’s money and political clout, and the saber rattle of gun control opponents is only part of the reason that tougher gun control laws, no matter how many heartbreaking massacres occur, face an uphill climb. The tipoff came during the recent presidential election. Obama and Romney were briefly challenged by Bloomberg and gun control advocates to propose new gun curbs. This was prompted by the Aurora, Colo. theater massacre. They demurred. The issue quickly dropped off the political radar.

The reason for the dodge had nothing to do with Romney’s well-known NRA membership and opposition to tougher gun control laws. Nor did it have anything to do with Obama’s reluctance to take a stand on the issue in front of millions of gun owners in what was a close re-election battle.

Both simply recognized that gun ownership is a fact of American life and a rigidly protected constitutional right. During his stint in the Illinois legislature, Obama’s major concern was cracking down on illegal gun sales, and the spread of and access to semi-automatic weapons. This does little to keep guns out of the hands of loose screws such as alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes and alleged Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza.

In the White House, Obama has simply followed the precedent of nearly all presidents, and that’s to leave tougher restrictions on gun sales and trafficking to the states. Some states have passed laws that ban assault guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines, limit the number of gun sales, require child safety locks on new guns and outlaw the sale of cheap handguns.