After mounting frustration over gun control policy, President Obama unveiled his plan of action at a press conference in the White House today. Mark Barden, whose seven-year-old son, Daniel, was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, introduced President Obama and Vice President Biden. “As a nation, we have to do better. We are better than this,” he said. His son was among the 20 students and six educators who were shot to death just over two years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Barden has since become the advocacy director for Sandy Hook Promise, a group dedicated to preventing gun violence.
President Obama spoke of the first time he met Mark Barden and the conversation they had about his son, Daniel. “That changed me, that day. And my hope earnestly has been that we will change the country,” Obama said.
Every year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns. “Too many,” Obama said, audience members echoing his words as he paused. Noting that the U.S. is the only advanced nation in the world to have mass shootings at such a high frequency, Obama also stressed that his plan of action is not an attempt to disarm law-abiding citizens. Obama asserted that he respects the second ammendment later saying jokingly, “I taught constitutional law.”
The backbone of Obama’s plan is to increase background checks and bring gun control technology into the 21st century. He insisted that if people have the ability to track a lost tablet from their phones, they ought to be able to track lost guns too. According to the White House, the FBI will hire at least 230 additional examiners and other workers to account for the uptick in background checks. The personnel will be available 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
In addition to stricter background checks, Obama will also devote $500 million more in federal funding targeted at treating mental illness. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will devote $4 million and extra workers to assist the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. The Bureau has also established a center which is dedicated to investigating illegal gun trafficking online. Obama's plan outlines 10 provisions, according to White House officials.
“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage but it cannot hold America hostage,” Obama said. “We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom.”
He became emotional toward the end of his address as he spoke of the young victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. As he listed mass shootings in the U.S.– among them Columbine and Virginia Tech– the President paused before speaking of the first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary. “First graders,” he repeated and paused again, wiping a tear from his left eye. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” he said as tears rolled down his face. “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day,” he continued as the audience erupted into applause.
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President Obama maintained that his plan is but a step in the right direction. “Tomorrow we should do more, and we should do more the day after that. And if we do, we’ll leave behind a nation that is stronger than the one we inherited and one worthy of the sacrifice of a man like Zaevion,” he said. 15 year-old Zaevion Dobson died shielding three teenage girls from a drive-by shooting in Tennessee last month.
- Bronte Price
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