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.


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Last year, there were 506 gun deaths. The murders were mainly gang-related, the victims principally black and brown. Twenty-four of those shot to death were Chicago public school students.

Like Obama's inheritance of President George W. Bush's deficit, Emanuel has inherited Mayor Richard M. Daley's violence problem. Ironically, although Obama's former senior adviser has not been able to solve his city's gun-violence problem, he's freely dispensing advice on how the nation can solve its gun-violence problem.


It's not quite as vain as it sounds. Back in the mid '90s when Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office, Emanuel was involved with the passage of the 1994 assault-weapons ban.

Speaking on national gun control at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday, Emanuel said the most effective way for Democrats to push effective gun reform through Congress is to avoid selling it as gun control but rather as a crime-reduction law.

It may be the president's Hail Mary in getting assault rifles and large magazine clips outlawed, but it's hard to imagine the current mayor of Chicago quarterbacking the play.


Mayor Emanuel is also hoping to strike a financial blow to the city's gun owners and the nation's gun manufacturers. Thursday he announced a plan to ask all those controlling the city's pension funds to divest any holdings they have with companies that make guns. And last week, Emanuel proposed a statewide $65 per handgun tax to help enable Chicago police to track down guns involved in crimes.

Chicago's deaths by firearms last year were nearly three times greater than the gun deaths in Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and Wales, France, Zambia and Greece — combined. In the case of the United States, the figure is exponentially more: The American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries, which have much tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.    

And yet, two days before Obama's announcement, Steve Stockman, formerly defeated, now newly-elected right-wing Republican congressman from Texas, threatened to file articles of impeachment if the president used executive orders in an attempt to prevent future massacres like that in Newtown, Conn., as well as the sort of violence that plagues the cities such as Chicago.


Eight days after the Newtown mass shooting, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, spoke, recommending that the best way to solve our nation's gun problems was more guns, that we should arm teachers and principals. As if the educators were starring in a Clint Eastwood flick in which a pistol-packing principal could take out a mass shooter wearing body armor and carrying an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine with a single, sure shot to the head. LaPierre also pointed out who was really at fault for our nation's epidemic of mass shootings: computer games.

In his announcement on Wednesday, the president gave a shoulder brush to the NRA chieftain's cheap shot on popular culture by barely mentioning video games.

Both in the real and virtual worlds, video games — and the two other whipping boys for guys who just want to play with their guns, Hollywood and rap music — don't stop at America's borders. Our violence-loaded popular culture is constantly consumed by youth around the globe.


One of the most popular video games here, Call of Duty, Black Ops 2, was last year's best-selling game in the U.K. Assassin's Creed 3 and Hitman: Absolution were two other shooter games in England's top-five best-sellers.

Opponents of gun reform also point their fingers at Hollywood but fail to acknowledge that American action movies do blockbuster box office at home and abroad without leaving foreign soil littered by bullet-riddled bodies from drive-bys or spray shootings.

There are 300 million guns in America — nearly as many personal weapons of destruction as there are people. There are 32 murders a day in the land of the brave, home of the free. Last year, 9,146 people were shot to death in America. That's three 9/11s over one year's time.


Long before video games, and even before Sam Peckinpah began shooting big-screen shootouts in slow-mo with gallons of fake blood bursting out of actors' bodies, there were real-life mass shootings in America. On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Joseph Whitman, an engineering student and former Marine, climbed up to the 28th floor of the Observation Tower at the University of Texas in Austin and opened fire. Before Austin police killed him, Whitman had killed 14 people and wounded 32 others.

Then, like last month's Sandy Hook mass shooting, the nation mourned. In inner cities and small towns across the land, there is lots of mourning. Even though he admits it's a long shot, hopefully this time the president's actions, supported by all of us who'd rather mourn no more, will lead to a good morning in America.

Cybercolumnist Monroe Anderson is a veteran Chicago journalist who has written signed op-ed-page columns for both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times and executive-produced and hosted his own local CBS TV show. He was also the editor of Savoy Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.


Cybercolumnist Monroe Anderson is a veteran Chicago journalist who has written signed op-ed-page columns for both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times and executive-produced and hosted his own local CBS TV show. He was also the editor of Savoy Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.