President Obama took on Second Amendment absolutists in his White House press conference today, challenging the idea that the right to own a gun means the right to own any gun.
“What we’ve seen over the last 10 or 15 years is that anything related to guns is an encroachment on the Second Amendment,” Obama said. “There’s a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all and that space is what Joe’s going to be examining.
Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to come up with a set of recommendations on gun laws no later than January. As a senator, Biden wrote the 1994 crime bill that contained the assault weapons ban which was allowed to expire in 2004. Obama did, however, describe three laws he wants Congress to pass: a renewed ban on assault weapons, ban on high-capacity ammunition clips and closing a loophole which allows sales at gun shows without background checks.
“In this age of technology, we should be able to check criminal records before someone checks out at a gun show,” the president said.
By saying that a majority of Americans support those three proposals and by laying out his belief that there are limits to what the Second Amendment allows, Obama attempted to place gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association at the extremist fringe of the debate over firearms in America, and even at the extremist fringe of gun owners.
“I am also betting that the majority of responsible gun owners agree that an irresponsible individual should not be able to get his hands on a weapon of war,” Obama said.
Obama was asked why he did not take action on gun control during his first four years in office.
“Where have you been?” a reporter questioned him. Obama has been a proponent of gun control since his days in the Illinois state senate and made it clear as president that he favored the assault weapons ban. But he also had to run for reelection, and a strong anti-gun stance might have cost him votes in states such as Colorado, Virginia and New Hampshire, which have strong gun cultures.
Now, he doesn’t have to run again, and the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., has changed the nation’s thinking on gun control. In his recitation of murders since last Friday, Obama didn’t mention his hometown, which has more murders in any city in the country. It took the killings of schoolchildren in the suburb--the most vulnerable people in what is supposed to be the safest place--to finally shock Americans into agreeing that we need to limit weapons.