On Sunday, President Obama said in a televised memorial speech in Newtown, Connecticut that if there is one step that we can take to prevent another Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Virginia Tech or Newtown, we have an obligation to try. He continued by saying we cannot say that we are powerless or to say that the politics are too hard. And if the politics are not too hard, then the Obama Administration should do more than just make a speech. And Congress needs to do more than standing by idly to prevent gun violence in America. If it’s not too hard, then our lawmakers need to step up to the National Rifle Association (“NRA”). The NRA has many of our Republican lawmakers hostage to changing our gun laws.
The taking of the lives of 20 six and seven year old first grade children by a madman is unthinkable. But it was also unthinkable for other madmen to take the lives of high school students in Columbine, college students at Virginia Tech, movie goers in Aurora or constituents in Tucson. Speeches are fine during a period of grieving. But as my mother would say we must not only talk the talk. We must also walk the walk. And it’s time for America’s lawmakers and leaders to walk the walk.
This was the fourth such speech by President Obama during his first term. So I will await and follow up to see what type of action that the Obama Administration will take on gun violence. Unfortunately we cannot prevent all gun violence. But steps must be taken against gun violence. Right now, there are no steps being taken. We are just making speeches, having memorials and funerals and moving on. There must be more done. Our government must be able to multi-task on the fiscal cliff, the economy, health care and gun control.
The Obama Administration should research what executive orders and powers that the president can order without the vote of Congress. Executive orders are used rarely and criticized when used. Historically, large policy changes with wide-ranging effects have been effected through executive order, including the integration of the armed forces under Harry Truman and the desegregation of public schools under Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Just this past week, there were so many shootings that made the headlines—Newtown, Connecticut, an Alabama hospital, Jovan Belcher and many more gun killings across the country that went unreported, even in their communities. In Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, during President Obama’s first term, there have been shootings of children while sitting on their steps and inside their homes by intruders or stray bullets. It’s hard to believe that we are not becoming desensitized to gun violence until some unthinkable act like killing 20 children occurs.
One cannot help but wonder what more will it take for our leaders to take action. One leader, California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. CA) says she will introduce a bill that will seek to seek to limit the sale, transfer and possession of assault weapons, along with the capacity of high-capacity magazines. Senator Feinstein, a gun control proponent, says she intends to introduce the bill on the first day our lawmakers return in January, 2013.
Our leaders must “take meaningful action”. This time cannot be just another opportunity for speeches and memorials. A civilized society deserves more. And our lawmakers owe us more. We have fought over who gets to vote, who gets health care and who gets to marry; We must now fight over who gets to carry a gun. And we must do it now.
Debbie Hines is a former felony prosecutor who has prosecuted gun crimes and murders. She is founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post, Washington Post and Washington Times and others.