President Obama delivered what may turn out be one of his most important speeches in office last night—comforting mourners while issuing a call to action.
“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” Obama told an auditorium of 1,700 at Newtown High School Sunday. “These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”
The tragedy at Sandy Hook will start a lot of conversations, it will put subjects from gun control to mental health to a culture of violence under the microscope. The question is whether days and weeks removed from the shooting at Newtown, policy or culture will have changed. Will our laws look different than they did after Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek?
Already, gun control advocates are pressing the president to follow up on his words with action. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg told NBC’s David Gregory that President Obama should make gun violence the number-one item on his agenda.
“His job is not just to be well-meaning. His job is to perform and to protect the American public,” Bloomberg said.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who authored the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, promised on Meet the Press to introduce legislation to reinstate the ban when the next Congress begins. Feinstein said Sunday the bill will also ban clips, drums and strips of more than ten bullets.
In a year when a number of red state Democrats are looking ahead to competitive elections in 2014, does Feinstein’s legislation have any chance in the Senate, let alone the Republican-controlled House of Representatives?
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman said he believes the nation is at a “turning point” which may make new conversations possible.
And, significantly, Monday West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin—a lifetime member of the NRA who has an A rating from the gun-rights group—said it is time to “move beyond” rhetoric on gun control. “I don’t know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. I don’t know anyone that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting,” Manchin said on Morning Joe.
Manchin, an avid hunter, famously shot a bullet through a copy of the president’s cap-and-trade bill in one of his 2010 campaign ads.
So far, the gun rights lobby has stayed silent. The NRA told NBC News that it would have no comment ”until the facts are thoroughly known.” Adweek reports that the NRA deactivated its Facebook page on Saturday, and has not posted on its Twitter feed since Friday, when it announced a holiday giveaway contest.
Pro-gun legislators also remained silent over the weekend, as “Meet the Press” executive producer Betsy Fischer Martin tweeted:
BTW, we reached out to ALL 31 pro-gun rights Sens in the new Congress to invite them to share their views on @meetthepress - NO takers.—
Betsy Fischer Martin (@BetsyMTP) December 16, 2012
Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert was a lonely voice Sunday. Gohmert said the Sandy Hook tragedy could have been stopped if principal Dawn Hochsprung had access to guns, telling Fox News Sunday, “I wish to god she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”