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Le Monde, France

Obama’s Tears Are Not Enough

Tears are not enough. If America wants to prevent such tragedies from happening again, it's time for politics. Now.

Translated By Clare Durif

15 December 2012

Edited by Hana Livingston

France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)

America is mourning its children. The country is grieving following a massacre that claimed 28 lives, 20 of which were children between five and 10 years old, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a small New England town. President Obama wept real tears when recalling the recent succession of shootings: “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children,” said the president. “Our hearts are broken.”

The president used the same expression when he visited Tucson, Ariz., following the January 2011 shooting that targeted Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and led to the loss of eight lives. Until now Obama has made do with providing comfort. On Friday, Dec. 14, Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that “today is not the day” to talk politics.

Tears are not enough. If America wants to prevent such tragedies from happening again, it's time for politics. Now. The response at the moment is minimal. “We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” said Obama. He did not even mention the proliferation of firearms in the U.S.

After the July 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at the screening of the latest Batman film, Obama and Republican opponent Mitt Romney dodged the subject during their electoral campaigns. The president’s persistent caution reflects a country that refuses to make a causal link between the endless massacres and the freedom to possess firearms.

The correlation is obvious. No country can stop a madman or a monster from carrying out killings. Europe is not immune. Peace-loving Norway found that out with the cold-hearted massacre of 67 people perpetrated by extremist Anders Breivik in July 2011. Germany experienced a comparable tragedy at a school in 2009.

Even so, the U.S. is the scene of one shooting after another because it is far too easy to obtain weapons. Its homicide rate is five times higher than that of France; murder by firearms is 16 times more frequent than in Germany.

The problem is inextricable. Thanks to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, people have been allowed to possess and carry weapons since 1791. The amendment was originally aimed at protecting citizens against the federal government’s attempts to disarm them. Carrying arms has become an individual right in a vast country where, more often than not, people resort to defending themselves rather than rely on the police. In 2008, the Supreme Court declared self-defense a fundamental element of law. In this context, it is unrealistic to think that Americans will reconsider their Constitution.

Nonetheless, it is still possible to limit weapons and make ownership more difficult. What is missing is the political willingness. The powerful National Rifle Association, which supports the Second Amendment and the hunting tradition, fights all restrictions on carrying arms. Its effective lobbying and powerful financial means dissuade politicians from taking action. It repeats that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” People without guns kill less.



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