How Will Obama Handle Gun Control?

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

(The Root) — Between now and the inauguration on Jan. 21, The Root will be taking a daily look at the president's record on a number of policy issues, including his first-term accomplishments and what many Americans hope to see him accomplish in a second term. First up: gun control.


Background: President Obama permanently solidified the enmity of the gun-rights lobby when, during the 2008 presidential primary, he was recorded at a political fundraiser saying of rural, working-class Americans, "So it's not surprising, then, that they get bitter and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations." These remarks set the stage for the perception that the president was one of the greatest political foes the gun-rights lobby had ever faced, resulting in nearly record sales after his election.

First-term accomplishments: Despite the fears of the gun-rights lobby, the president actually has a mixed record on gun control. According to the Christian Science Monitor, "The only gun control laws he has signed as president have been to expand gun rights — allowing guns on national park lands and Amtrak trains."


Furthermore, five of the nation's 12 deadliest shootings actually occurred during his first term. After the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011, the president reasserted his support for gun control, saying, "I … believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals. That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities." Yet he did not push for the renewal of the assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004, with his spokesman blaming the fact that Congress would be unlikely to pass such a measure.

Second-term hopes: After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and six faculty members, President Obama reignited the hopes of gun control supporters by expressing his strongest support, since taking office, for new measures. He appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head a gun control task force to submit policy recommendations, saying, "This time the words need to lead to action. I will use all the powers of this office to progress the efforts to reduce gun violence, and I won't be able to do it by myself." 

While the president has said he is awaiting recommendations from the vice president before announcing his new policy plans on the issue, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has already announced that on the first day of the new Congress, she will be introducing a bill to ban assault weapons and clips used on weapons to expel an excessive number of bullets in a brief amount of time. Gun control supporters are hopeful that the president will use the weight of his office to pass such measures, thereby making substantive gun control policy a part of his second-term legacy. 

Tell us what you would like to see President Obama do about guns during his second term, using the comment box below.


Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter

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