Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Paul Helmke Headshot

Gun Violence Prevention And Obama's First 100 Days: Incomplete

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Trying to "grade" President Obama's first hundred days with respect to gun violence prevention is like grading a student who has registered for class, done a good job with preparations, but has put off attendance and test-taking to the next semester.

Over the last 100 days, the nation has suffered a string of mass shootings taking the lives of 57 people in less than a month -- including seven police officers, thirteen aspiring citizens and eight senior citizens (not to mention the other approximately 3,100 murdered by gunfire since January 20 whose deaths didn't make national news).

We have also learned that a large percentage of the firearms traced at crime scenes in Mexico come from the United States, including military-style assault weapons used to murder police and innocent bystanders in Mexico's drug war. The nation also marked the somber anniversaries of the Virginia Tech massacre (two years ago) and the Columbine school shooting (10 years ago).

The president's direct response to this gun violence -- a public safety and public health issue more lethal than pistachios, spinach or peanut butter crackers -- has been minimal.

On the one hand, the president has appointed people with strong records on gun violence prevention to his cabinet and administration, including Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel.

The White House Web site continues to show the president's commitment to requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales at gun shows, childproofing guns, making crime gun trace data accessible so law enforcement can fight the illegal arms trade, and permanently banning military-style assault weapons.

The president sent "thoughts and prayers" to the victims in Binghamton on April 3. In his April 16 news conference in Mexico, he said that we need to deal "with assault weapons that... are helping fuel extraordinary violence" and that "tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information" needed to be accessible to law enforcement.

The Obama Interior Department wisely decided not to appeal our lawsuit to block the last-minute Bush administration rule allowing loaded, concealed guns into our national parks.

On the other hand, the gun violence prevention movement is disappointed that -- in the face of a problem that takes the lives of over 30,000 Americans a year, an average of 84 Americans a day, including 32 by homicide, and injures another 70,000 each year -- that the administration is not doing more now to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

The president should strongly support the bill introduced last week to require Brady criminal background checks for all gun purchases -- something that should not concern any legitimate gun owner, but something that would make it harder for dangerous people to get guns easily.

The president should oppose efforts to permit almost anyone to have .50-caliber sniper rifles and military-style assault weapons, particularly in our nation's capital.

The president should make it clear that efforts to disrupt trafficking in illegal guns and stockpiling of private arsenals are not a threat to law-abiding gun owners.

While the Obama administration has been unwilling so far to be tested on popular gun violence prevention policies -- over 80% of Americans favor criminal background checks for all gun sales, including at gun shows, with solid majorities in favor of banning military-style assault weapons -- we are optimistic that in the coming months the White House will take common sense steps to reduce the staggering toll that gun violence takes every day on American communities.

Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.