‘These Tragedies Must End’: Obama Promises Change at Newtown Vigil, but Can He Deliver?

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Evan Vucci / AP

President Barack Obama pauses during a speech at an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 16, 2012.

At a moment of almost incomprehensible horror and suffering, Barack Obama delivered elegiac remarks at a Sunday-night prayer vigil in Newtown, Conn. The powerful speech hit a haunting apex as the President quietly read off perhaps the most painful roll call in history: the first names of the 20 children who were gunned down in their classrooms two days earlier. It may have been Obama’s most theological address to date as he quoted the Bible and said of the children that “God has called them all home.” It’s easy to imagine how even diehard Mitt Romney supporters might have teared up at the somber grace the President brought to his role as healer, with the bitter grudges about tax rates and health care mandates atomized for an evening by searing grief and existential vertigo.

That’s because Obama’s was not a political speech. “These tragedies must end,” he said. “We can’t accept events like these as routine.” No one could dispute that. But on the matter of dispute — what laws might be changed to prevent the next senseless massacre — Obama was vague. He offered only a placeholder for future action: “In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental-health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? … Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”

(MORE: Full Transcript of the President’s Address)

The answer to that question will have to come from Obama himself. But at the moment, the politics do appear to be too hard. At least the politics of gun control, and more specifically the politics of restoring, say, the 1990s assault-weapons ban, limiting high-ammunition clips and creating more obstacles for the disturbed and potentially dangerous to acquire guns.

(PHOTOS: Connecticut Community Copes After School Shooting)

Influential national figures, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, may be demanding more action. But the Republicans who almost unanimously oppose new gun regulation control the House and wield effective veto power in the Senate. GOP leaders have kept a conspicuously low profile on the issue since the world learned the name of Adam Lanza. Moreover, many moderate Democrats in both chambers are wary of alienating gun-rights supporters in their states and districts. (Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, is among them.)

And then there is the matter of public opinion. Americans are roughly divided on the wisdom of tighter gun restrictions, which are less popular now than they were in the 1990s. Past gun rampages, including the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the Aurora, Colo., movie-theater massacre, haven’t budged the needle.

Moreover, even the most horrible tragedies fade from memory. The holidays will come and go. Washington will soon return to obsessing over the fiscal cliff. Bills will bog down in committee. Some other tragedy — a plane crash, a megastorm — may saturate our airwaves and Twitter feeds with new tragedies and policy debates.

Unless, that is, Obama doesn’t forget. Substantial change, not only to gun laws but to our confounding mental health care system (much of it beyond Washington’s purview), will require some of the President’s precious postelection political capital. It will require making gun control a true priority of his second term. He’ll have to mount a sustained public relations campaign, shaping public opinion not only to pressure Republicans but also to discomfit rural-area congressional Democrats who are already bracing for the midterm elections, which are historically hostile to the President’s party.

(MORE: Mass Murder: Why Are Schools Such a Common Target?)

Obama would have to kick off this effort while waging an epic battle with Republicans over the nation’s fiscal future just after his surrender in a showdown over his preferred new Secretary of State. Gun control could compete with other priorities he hopes to unveil in January, possibly including new action on immigration and climate change.

And yet Obama appears genuinely stricken by the horror of Newtown; that much was evident not just from his tone on Sunday but from his tears in his initial statement on Dec. 14. The fact that he chose not to make a political speech on Sunday doesn’t mean that he won’t soon. But if Obama is determined to apply his power toward making these tragedies end, it will have to be the first of many.

MORE: Funerals at Christmastime: Newtown Prepares to Mourn

336 comments
dontn123
dontn123

Something evil part 2 being played out on the heart strings of the public? Watch this video about Sandy Hook
http://youtu.be/dvq2zABOtL8

CAUGHT red handed WHY would THEY do this kind of coordinated mass media campaign with bad actors?

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

TIME's Person of the Year...

What does he win?  A second term, of course.

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

Soooo lets do this....let's have every school remotely monitored and equipped with automatic metal doors dividing the building into zones.  You get an emergency in a school the monitor can see whats happening, lock down the school, isolate the attacker, maybe even deploy incapacitating gas/agents into the attacker's zone.   Not perfect but nothing is and this limits the number of targets and would be effective against almost all weapon threats.

sacredh
sacredh

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work I go. Have fun folks and thanks for the thread Michael.

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

Way late on this....  At the least there should be a limit on mag size.  30 round clips?  50/100 round drums?  Stop.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

I'm beginning to wonder if Paul has ever even fired a gun in his life or if he's just parroting this because of how brainwashed is it by right-wing extremist talking points.

fitty_three
fitty_three

paulejb's presenting his 21 butt salute to the kids at Sandy Hook.

Nice.

sacredh
sacredh

MrObvious, I was against the war when I was young. The year the draft ended my lottery number was in the 20's. I would have went. I wouldn't have liked it, but I wouldn't have shit in my pants like Ted did to get out of it. Ted always has been and always will be a POS.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@sacredh 

By his own admission, Nugent stopped all forms of personal hygiene for a month and showed up for his draft board physical in pants caked with his own urine and feces, winning a deferment. Creative!

I have a feeling that what he's saying is that he showed up as his natural self.. No need to make up a bogus story about how he made the extra effort.

sacredh
sacredh

I'm a firm believer in free speech. I try to separate an artist from their views or personal lives. It's one of the reasons that i think celebrity endorsements are a joke. Just because I like a person's music, books or movies, doesn't mean that I place any stock whatsoever in their views on politics, religion or morality. I've been to a couple of Ted Nugent concerts (back when Stranglehold and Cat Scratch Fever were NEW music), but I can't do it for Ted anymore. I threw his cds in the garbage a few months ago.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@sacredh  

Ted Nugent shouldn't be allowed anywhere near anything but a hunting rifle.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@sacredh 

There's always an outlet for bad music sung by morons. It just doesn't have to be televised. 

Tero
Tero

@sacredh 

LOL who thought this lame-ass show was a good idea in the first place? Plus, Ted Nugent doesn't exactly have the looks to be on television. What an ugly man, inside and out.

jmac
jmac

@MementoMori The AR-15 is Michelle Bachmann's rifle of choice.   After clicking on the link, I'm assuming not so for her husband.    

Tero
Tero

@MementoMori 

I would suggest some alternate text for this ad.

"Consider Your Penis Small"

Tero
Tero

@DonQuixotic 

I'd have to go with brainwashed. I would give him the benefit of the doubt that he's fired a gun in his life, I just doubt he was any good at it. Becoming proficient with a firearm requires work, which is beyond paulies abilities and attention span.

outsider
outsider

Leaning towards the latter

@DonQuixotic

Tero
Tero

@53_3 

He likes to keep it classy. 

At least is consistent... Consistently an evil little douce bag.

paulejb
paulejb

@53_3 ,

Liberals immediately leap to impose their ideology while the bodies are still warm. You people are despicable.

sacredh
sacredh

You'd never do it. I'd never do it. Ted brags about it. Mitt sought Ted out for his endorsement. This stuff wasn't a secret. Two minutes on Google and you'd have it all right there in front of you. They STILL wanted Ted's endorsement. This just isn't about Mitt or Ted, it's about the republican base. They're a disgrace.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@sacredh 

If I really wanted out of something so badly that I had to fake something; I'd fall the day before real bad and come in with a limp or something, stating that I'm a massive dumb cluts. Or do just say the most stupid things possible.

But to piss and shit myself ?

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Person Of Stench?

Partisan Obviously Satirized?

Patron Of Soliloquy?

Stop me if I'm getting warm  ; )

sacredh
sacredh

I did recycle the plastic cases.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@Tero @sacredh 

The guitarist, an outspoken advocate of gun rights, went on a Twitter diatribe after President Obama was re-elected last month. He also drew scrutiny from the Secret Service earlier this year after comments he made about Democrats at a National Rifle Association convention, where he said, "We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November."

I'm sure according to paulejb this is an euphemism  and not to be taken literal. But when Obama or say a union boss says something it's all literal.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@Tero @DonQuixotic 

paulejb probably think that because he vote for righties then he automatically knows how to handle guns.

It's in his blood.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@53_3 @DonQuixotic 

I'd challenge people (and I use that term loosely) like Paul to go up to the parents of these lost children and tell them that guns in schools may have prevented this.  I wonder if we'd see a world record for fastest ass-kicking.

superlogi
superlogi

@paulejb @53_3 Well, they are progressives who would progressively trash anything in the Law of the Land that didn't suit their so-called "progressive" agendas and, of course, have already begin systematically with and effort to modify both the 1st and 2nd Amendments.  Oh well, as long as they have some way of accessing the government teat, that's really the only thing that matters.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@DonQuixotic

That's why sniper rifles and the internet are so popular with "poople" like paulejb.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@superlogi

I'll have to go along with MO and Tero here.

That, and the fact there's no content in your post.

Tero
Tero

@superlogi @paulejb @53_3 

Yes, keep on spewing ignorant bs about things you don't understand. Such is the conservative way...

MrObvious
MrObvious

@superlogi @paulejb @53_3 

The bubble is strong in you. You don't know shit about liberals or progressives. It's clear by the kind of ignorant swill you and paulejb throws around.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@Tero @53_3 @MrObvious 

He rubs his scrotch all over the radio when Rush is on; he's so well trained that he comes here to pee on demand all the time.