Barack Obama needs Congress to pass stronger legislation on firearms, but he is meeting with resistance even within his own camp.
This week, Barack Obama brought the families of the victims of the shooting at Newtown to Washington aboard Air Force One. He is including them in his campaign for new measures to control firearms, which legislators are currently easing and could even abandon altogether.
"Whether they want to hear it or not, we will continue to be there and to raise our voices," declared Jillian Soto, whose sister, Vicki Soto, was killed in December in the school massacre where 20 students and five* teachers lost their lives. "We are going to call them, send them emails, write letters, organize rallies and sit in front of their offices until they speak to us and listen to what we have to say."**
In the days following the massacre in Newtown, Conn., Obama had promised to use all his powers to reduce gun violence. But whatever Washington wants to do must of course take the form of law, and only legislators can make that happen.
Set Politics Aside to Just Do What’s Right
Convincing Congress has been Obama’s first priority since the start of his second term in January. He has traveled across the country to urge Americans to put pressure on their representatives. "We have to be more demanding with ourselves and face to face with Congress,”** he stressed. “Every once in a while, we set politics aside, and we just do what’s right. We’ve got to believe that."
Three of the president's main proposals have met with strong and immediate opposition from gun supporters. The ban on high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles modeled after military weapons has been virtually abandoned. The third proposal, which aims to extend the current control measures to all potential gun buyers even if they don't purchase through traditional stores, was watered down significantly in an attempt to get it passed.
Passage of the Bill Is Far from Certain
Even the smallest bills can encounter problems. For days, several Republicans have threatened to use legislative maneuvers to prevent a vote in the Democratically-controlled Senate. But even when the time comes to vote, passage of the bill is far from certain. Within the president's own party, many senators are faithful supporters of firearms. In the House of Representatives, controlled by the Republicans, the fate of the bill seems even more compromised.
Our polls indicate that some of the president's proposals benefit from large public support, but worries about gun violence have diminished since December, when the massacre was in the headlines. At the same time, opposition grew. At the beginning of the year, 53 percent of Americans who keep a gun in their home believed that the government was trying to take away their right to keep it. That number has since climbed to 62 percent.
As everyone knows, the U.S. Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to bear arms, which is jealously protected by a well-organized gun lobby. This week, families of the victims were politely received by legislators, who, nevertheless, have not changed their attitude. In the United States, guns are always sure to win; the president is not.
* Editor’s note: A total of six adult staff at the school were killed.
** Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.
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L'Express, France's first weekly news magazine, was modelled on the American magazine Time. Its first editor was Francoise Giroud, who had earlier edited Elle and went on to become France's first Minister of Women's Affairs in 1974 and Minister of Culture in 1976. The magazine has a right-of-centre orientation.