President Barack Obama used the Sunday evening memorial service for the murdered kindergartners and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School to launch a partisan campaign that could expand government intrusion into parenting and gun control.
“[The] job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors … and the help of a nation,” Obama said at the vigil, which was held only a short distance from the Connecticut school where 20 children and six adults were murdered on Friday.
“We will have to change. … If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief … then surely we have an obligation to try.”
It is not clear if Obama actually will develop a national anti-violence crusade that would reshape families’ ability to raise their children. He may simply be using the Sandy Hook shooting to paint Democrats as defenders of the nation’s children from the GOP-backed gun industry.
But Obama promised imminent action via Democratic-affiliated lobbies, such as the mental-health sector and the teachers’ unions. (RELATED VIDEO — MSNBC guest: Sandy Hook aftermath would have been uglier if shooter hadn’t been white)
“In the coming weeks, I will 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,” he declared.
Through his 18-minute speech, Obama’s language promised a partisan and divisive project by suggesting people who disagree with his policies are callous, dishonest, complacent or uncaring.
“We can’t accept events like this as routine,” he said. “Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?” he added. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”
“Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” he asked.
Obama’s rhetoric ignored many modest or local measures that could reduce gun violence without further increasing the federal government’s role.
At the federal level, such modest reforms could include funding for the institutionalization of disturbed people, or for training teachers who choose to carry a weapon to work. The federal government also has some authority to restrict the sale of high-capacity bullet magazines and body armor, as well as the ability to boost the financial rewards for parents who stay married.
State and local government are also free to adopt similar measures.
In Texas, for example, at least one school district — Harrold Independent School District — encourages teachers to bring guns to work.
Some states, including Connecticut, have experimented with stringent control on guns, partly because many influential university-trained professionals abhor guns being sold to poor Americans. But Connecticut’s stringent anti-gun laws did not stop the murders at Sandy Hook.