Obama’s Final Shot at Saving a Nation
The President of the United States of America cried on television. It’s wasn’t easy to watch. I felt scared, nervous and worried – I felt like I was watching my father cry. He’s a man whose job is to look after us, look out for us and stay strong; the sight of him broken and wiping away tears unnerves me. But I paid attention and sat on the edge of my seat. What could be so important that it reduced one of the most powerful men in the world to this?
Dead children. He’s crying about dead children.
On 5th January 2016 Barack Obama gave a televised speech to discuss his stance on gun crime accompanied by the father of a victim of America’s second most notorious mass shooting – Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty children and seven adults lost their lives that day, mostly six year old students and their heroic teachers, along with the perpetrator’s own mother, who the murderer Adam Lanza shot that morning in cold blood as she lay in bed in her pajamas. But it’s not just the pointless loss of these lives that brought the nation to its knees, it was the sad fact that it could have all been avoided.
Had Lanza, just 20 years old, not had a house full of legal weapons and a gun fanatical mum it may not have happened. Had his mental illnesses of Aspergers, chronic OCD and Anorexia, and possibly the onset of Schizophrenia, been taken seriously, monitored and treated earlier, it may never have happened. Had someone noticed his fascination with school shootings and mass murders and asked why, it may never have happened. If. But. Why. What’s the point? We’ll never be able to get into the head of such a man… but maybe Obama can try to stop it happening again? Or at least less frequently?
The President foreshadowed the agenda of his final address on the State of the Union and he showed the world that he’s not just a father to two wonderful girls… he’s a father to an entire nation. He’s in charge and he can make things better. Or at least make a start.
The President of the United States made history as he used the SOTU as his final swansong. He planed to do what many before him have failed to do, he wanted to save American lives. Although he understands that you can’t please all the people all of the time – he stood and up and he delivered; he’s teaching more than just his fellow countrymen a valuable lesson about compromise and he’s using his power for the greater good.
The current President’s planned to make gun ownership more difficult for those who, in simple words, can’t be trusted with a weapon. He wanted to make it harder for those with a violent history or mental health problems to get their hands on a killing machine and make guns harder to use incorrectly. His four main concerns and changes centred around:
- Background Checks: All gun sellers will need to have a license and background checks will be conducted. The FBI will be looking into the existing background check system.
- Enforcement: 200 new agents will be added to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
- Mental Health: Increase the accessibility of reporting and sharing information about people barred from owning guns for mental health reasons and invest $500 million on mental health care.
- Technology: Invest in research in “smart guns” that can only be fired by authorized users and other gun safety technology.
Comparing American gun violence (excluding suicides, which make up 2/3 of gun deaths in the US) between 2014 and 2015 and all the media attention surrounding it, it’s surprising to see that numbers are still rising. Strangely there is no correlation between gun ownership per state and gun crime statistics. In fact there is a strange paradigm between crime rates falling since Obama’s two terms in office and gun crime increasing.
These figures reflect a culture where gun use is deeply ingrained in society’s very psyche. Where children are more shocked by hearing curse words or seeing sex scenes on television than they are about gruesome Tarantino-style gun battles in the movies. Where protecting yourself with a gun is less frowned upon than protecting yourself with a vaccine. Where keeping your home safe is a good enough reason to keep a hand gun under your pillow.
The fact that both gun crime and gun ownership numbers are rising year on year is indicative of a scared nation. A nation that is the first to weep on the news at yet another mass shooting, lay flowers at the scene of the crime and write long blogs about children going on play dates in houses where there are firearms – yet they still own a gun.
In fact gun sales rise after a mass shooting, perhaps out of fear that legislation will change and someone will take away their toys. Perhaps in a capitalist nation where you are taught that survival of the fittest rules, you arm yourself with the biggest and the scariest. Especially if you can grab it at the supermarket along with your bread and milk on your next daily shop.
In 2015 alone the US saw 330 mass shootings, cases where one person killed or injured at least 3 people. The biggest mass murder of last year was conducted three weeks before Christmas by a disgruntled employee who killed 16 people and injured a further 19 in San Bernardino, California, because he had a bad day at the office.
Last year alone over 3,000 children in North America under the age of seventeen were murdered or injured at the hands of a gun. That’s enough children to fill two High Schools wiped out or irrevocably damaged for the rest of their lives.
And last year a massive 1,944 people were accidentally shot.
A Tennessee man shot through the floor of his apartment and hit a thirteen year old girl below, who happened to be holding a twelve week old baby. He didn’t mean to, it was an accident. The teenager died. The perpetrator was chased out of the building by his neighbours and was also shot dead. Two lives were lost, a baby was injured and another man is now a murderer. For what? If this had happened in another developed country it would have made front page news. Except this didn’t.
On the 5th of January during his live speech Obama said -“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.”
He’s right. It doesn’t. I live in an ‘advanced’ country. In fact I have lived in three of those countries, two in Europe as well as Australia. I am in my late thirties, a mother of two young girls, and have never seen a gun. I have never held a gun. I have never even heard a gun. Neither has anyone else I know.
I am not a sheltered princess hiding in an ivory tower, I have traveled the world on my own and I have lived in some pretty shitty areas. In my country I am free to take my four and six year old kids to school and not worry about them for six and a half hours. Not once does it cross my mind that anyone may enter their school and harm them. I don’t worry about my husband at work and any angry idiots he may work with, they are all free to have bad days and scream and shout and quit their jobs – but none of them own a gun. I’m free to argue with someone in the street without worrying that they have a gun in their purse.
I’m free – and I don’t live in the “land of the free.”
Statistically, when it comes to gun crime, the US is is just behind their South American cousins. How can you ask the world to look to you for guidance when you can’t even protect your own people?
On the 8th of January 2016 President Obama was invited to the Town Hall by the CNN to talk to Anderson Cooper about his stance on Gun Crime. One hundred people from the general public, from sheriffs, priests and military widows to victims of rape and gun crime, had the opportunity to listen and question the President and for once the nation had the chance to watch an educated and fair debate about how Obama’s proposed policies will affect their country and everybody’s very different lives.
Notable in their absence was the National Rifle Association, Obama’s biggest nemesis, who for the past seven years have been intent on convincing the nation that their President wants to take away their civil liberties and rights to bear arms at all times. The NRA had been invited to attend but they declined. Needless to say, had they been present, the debate would have become less of a round table discussion and more of slagging match.
Obama wasn’t teary eyed this time, he wasn’t angry and this wasn’t an elaborate PR mission to get re-elected. He has nothing left to prove, he just wants to leave behind a positive legacy. He was far from fired up, if anything he looked exasperated and tired; tired of spelling out the obvious and tired of repeating himself about what to any reasonable adult is common sense. Guns are not something everyone has a right to.
“A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, lawbreaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale,” Obama explained last week.
Who can argue with that? If you can’t take guns and their damage away from the people, then at least take the damaged people away from the guns.
Just two weeks into 2016, over 335 people had already been killed by a gun in the US. Four of them children. Let’s hope, following Obama’s proposal, that those numbers start to slow down. Under the new legislation US citizens will still be able to retain their need for their constitutional right to bear arms, but now (in theory) the disgruntled, deranged, disillusioned, delusional and delinquent gun dealers (who cross state borders in order to take advantage of more lenient gun control), will relinquish their rights.
Every President is elected to make a difference and look after his people, and every American deserves their American Dream. You want a constitutional right? Well then let’s start with the simplest and fairest right every person deserves – the right to go to work, school and walk down the street without the fear of being shot. That is true life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.