When a tragedy occurs, the stunned and devastated public looks to its leaders for guidance and comfort. The constituency relies on the opinions and positions of the most respected and well-known individuals, people such as our two candidates for the United States presidency.
Sadly, as questions arise from the shootings in Colorado, the response from our leaders is not what the public seeks or needs. While both President Obama and Mitt Romney expressed sympathy on their behalf about the shootings, neither has responded to the issue at hand: should the United States implement stricter gun control laws to avoid these massacres? This is the time for our leaders to take a stance and guide the people. Unfortunately, neither rose to the occasion, seizing the opportunity to take a stance on this critical issue and open a public discourse.
There is a delicate balance between carrying out the responsibilities of an elected official, while still playing the role of a politician who is seeking an election. Certain issues, such as gun control, are deemed "toxic" because they easily alienate certain demographics and are a fast track to easily losing votes and public support. Whenever they are brought up in debates or press conferences, the politicians' answers are evasive. However, the most controversial and sensitive topics should not be avoided out of fear of unpopularity during a critical election period; rather the discussion should be clear and definitive.
The topic of gun control is extremely polarized; some adamantly advocating for their Second Amendment rights, while other concerned citizens plea for stricter laws and regulation. As a result, when a candidate for political office publicly supports a concrete position, votes are lost. Skirting around such a sensitive issue is "political" and seems like a perfect move for a candidate. It is disconcerting to see that not even a tragedy such as the Colorado shootings can incite some dialogue regarding the issue of gun control. Is popularity during an election year more important than forging a cohesive plan of action to avoid future calamities?
Whatever the stance, no matter how divided or controversial, the American public needs leadership. As a student and frequent moviegoer, I need to know that these situations will never happen again. Is it too much to ask to be safe in my high school or watching a movie on a summer night? Voters should be not concerned with where a politician's stance ranks on the political spectrum; they too want to see proactive action towards avoiding such tragedies. Americans need assurance and they expect definitive, explicit leadership. President Obama may be running for re-election, but he first and foremost is our nation's leader. The absence of public discourse on the issue of gun control has been truly deafening.
This is not the time to curry favor with special interest groups; it is the time to place the betterment and safety of the country highest on the public agenda. While many may have divergent views on what the role of guns play in ensuring personal safety and personal freedom, this should not inhibit action. I encourage our politicians to set aside the controversy and political expediency. I urge them to take strong-willed and bold steps toward a constructive and sensible direction.