Is It Gun Control or Crime Reduction?

Prompted by mass shootings, Obama's reforms could take on new meaning for cities beset by violence.

At a January 2013 press conference, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls for stricter gun regulations. (Getty Images)
At a January 2013 press conference, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls for stricter gun regulations. (Getty Images)

(The Root) — Barack Obama came to a gunfight Wednesday with a rocket launcher.

After almost completing his entire first term while deftly dodging any substantive discussion on gun control, 33 days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the president came out blasting.

He called out Congress, announcing it’s time for Capitol Hill lawmakers to “require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun” and to “restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines.”

He announced that he would immediately sign 23 executive actions in response to Vice President Joe Biden’s report on gun violence.

He announced how his administration will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness plans that would help mental-health professionals understand their options for reporting threats of violence.

And he took aim at right-wing pundits, the NRA and the legislators for whom the gun manufacturers have paid, predicting that there would be “politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any commonsense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.”

That volley had already been fired days before the president launched the most ambitious and sweeping gun reform plan since 1968, when Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. And he has allies.

Take Chicago, the president’s hometown. The president’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is the city’s mayor. It has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. But it’s surrounded by suburbs with loose limitations on gun sales and a gaggle of street gangs whose elder leaders are all behind bars. Pockets of the city resemble The Lord of the Flies. It’s the murder capitol of the nation.