It’s a start

  • January 23, 2013

Sculpting a legacy is a central subplot in the second term of any American president. To that end, Barack Obama has started writing a key chapter to his story by squaring himself as the president who stood up to America’s powerful gun lobby.

Four days before swearing the presidential oath to launch his second term, Obama announced a bold (by U.S. standards) plan for gun control. Through executive orders and legislation, he intends, among other things, to outlaw assault weapons, restrict ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, ban armoured-piercing bullets and impose criminal background checks for all gun buyers.

Coming in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, it falls short of a full plan to rid American streets of some 300 million guns. Indeed, by standards in most western nations, the plan seems hollow. In addition to legal firearms owned by responsible hunters, collectors, target shooters and others, handguns and rifles will remain plentiful and available to adults of sound mind and clean criminal record. America will still have the most heavily armed civilian society in the world.

But at last there finally may be a line in the sand. For decades, American leaders have been cowed by a snarly gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association. Obama deserves credit for seriously taking them on and, despite a poor record on other life issues, his actions here in defence of the vulnerable warrant support.

“The initiatives . . . to restrict and control the proliferation and use of arms is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi.

Speaking on Vatican Radio, Lombardi correctly observed that Obama’s proposals won’t necessarily prevent more Newtown-like tragedies. But by staring down the NRA and its rabid supporters, Obama is doing more than offering condolences to bereaved families and lamenting the spiral of violence in American society.

In addition to the Vatican, Obama has the support of 53 per cent of American voters, according to a recent Gallup poll, as well as the backing from leaders of most American faith groups, including the U.S. bishops. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has equated gun-control advocacy with championing the pro-life cause.

“The unfettered access to assault weapons and handguns, along with the glorification of violence in our ‘entertainment’ industry . . . is really all part of a culture of death, as Blessed John Paul II called it,” Dolan told Catholic News Service.

Obama still faces obstacles to advance his plan through an obstinate Congress and Senate. The gun lobby remains strong. But main street America is finally realizing that guns impede the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

They now have an ally in a president who seems committed to change and mindful of his legacy.


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