Obama Lashes Out at Gun Rights Advocates, Wastes Political Capital

Barack Obama

Shortly after the amendments expand background checks and ban so-called “assault weapons” failed in the Senate, President Barack Obama, who campaigned for both proposals, indignantly lashed out at members of the chamber who voted against the measures:

“All in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Obama said in the Rose Garden, after walking to the podium with his arm around Giffords and hugged the relatives of victims of the December shooting.

Obama directed much of his anger at Republicans and seizing the political high ground for himself and fellow Democrats as he called out the opposition for rejecting an idea that polls show 90 percent of people support.

“Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for (background checks),” Obama said. “But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea. A majority of senators voted ‘yes’ to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks. But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.”

President Obama also lit into gun rights groups, like the National Rifle Association, claiming that they are “better organized” and “better financed.” He also said that they lied about the anti-gun amendments that came before the Senate. However, President Obama insisted that “we are going to get this done…[s]ooner or later, we are going to get this right.”

Let’s get something straight — these measures would not have prevented the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Even Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) admitted that expanded background checks wouldn’t have stopped this terrible incident from occuring.

Jacob Sullum notes that President Obama’s response to the votes in the Senate shows one of his major faults.

“Obama does a fine job of empathizing with the parents of Adam Lanza’s victims,” wrote Sullum. “But that is something any decent human being should be able to manage. Where he has trouble, despite his lip service to the idea of putting himself in the other guy’s shoes, is in empathizing with his opponents.”

“He not only says they are wrong, which is to be expected,” continued Sullum. “He refuses to concede that people who disagree with him about gun control are acting in good faith, based on what they believe to be sound reasons—that they, like him, are doing what they think is right. His self-righteous solipsism is striking even for a politician.”

Of course, President Obama spent a lot of his post-election political capital on the gun control issue. He literally campaigned for the measures and held press conferences at the White House and elsewhere to lobby members of the Senate for votes.

The problem with the strategy is that only 4% of Americans were concerned about the gun issue. Sure, 88% to 90% may have supported background checks — as if that actually matters — but 96% of Americans are more concerned about other issues — including 53% who are more concerned about economic issues.

Why not focus on the economy? Oh wait, that’s right — President Obama doesn’t exactly have a good record on those issues. Plus, the White House saw an opening with the Newtown tragedy to attempt to pass long-held anti-gun views, which were just the next step along the road to more onerous measures.

While sympathizing with the victims of Newtown is something that we should all do, we should not sacrifice civil liberties every time a tragedy occurs. That’s what President Obama wanted. He lost — and we should be thanking every single Senator who voted against his anti-gun proposals.

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