President Barack Obama wipes a tear while talking about Newtown and other mass killings during an event held to announce new gun control measures at the White House. (photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. To kick off 2016: Obama’s gun-control push, the Donald dredging up Bill and Hillary’s past, and the simmering rage of white America.
nce America decided killing children was bearable,” one gun-control commentator memorably wrote when reforms failed after Sandy Hook, any effective debate on guns in the U.S. “was over.” Does President Obama’s emotional call for new measures this week create any political movement to change that?
Given the initial response by the GOP, a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA, you’d have to say no: The president’s move was greeted with the usual hysterical blather about how “The cruel despot Obama is coming to take your guns!” and the usual pooh-poohing about how “Nothing he’s proposing would have stopped the mass shootings of Sandy Hook, Charleston, San Bernardino … ” And in truth, the effect of his proposed executive actions will be small gruel indeed — enabling, perhaps, some thousands of additional background checks. That’s a pittance in a nation where, in 2015 alone, there were more than 23 million background checks on gun sales, and who knows how many gun transactions requiring no vetting at all. And yet: Am I, a longtime pessimist about progress on this issue, completely delusional to see a tiny bit of movement in the right direction?
As polling has long showed, more than 90 percent of Americans favor rigid background checks on gun buyers, making it a well-chosen focus for the president’s initiative. Even Bill O’Reilly came out in agreement with Obama on this point this week — potentially a more influential voice in changing hearts and minds than, say, the preaching-to-the-choir front-page editorials in the New York Daily News and Times. And, as the Times reported in a recent front-page news story, Michael Bloomberg’s serious capital investment in fighting for gun reform, initially fruitless, has quietly started to notch up a few political victories over the NRA at the local level.
Frank Rich || New York Magazine | Reader Supported News | January 11, 2015