Obama's Gun Violence Tears: Authentic Grief or Cynical Theater?

Guy Benson
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Posted: Jan 07, 2016 1:20 PM
Obama's Gun Violence Tears: Authentic Grief or Cynical Theater?

Yesterday, I discussed President Obama's gun control pep rally -- at which he employed characteristically deceitful and demagogic rhetoric -- on Fox News with my frequent liberal sparring partner Julie Roginsky. Among other topics, we addressed whether Obama's much-discussed emotional display was genuine or a political put-on. On that particular question, we (and Donald Trump, interestingly) were in agreement: It's not hard to see why a father of two would get choked up when talking about the massacre of innocent first graders, particularly while surrounded by heartsick families of murder victims. Why he doesn't seem to summon similar anger and heartache when addressing, say, Americans beheaded by ISIS, or murdered in cold blood by Islamist terrorists in California, is a separate issue. That doesn't alter my belief that his emotion was real this week. But is that question relevant? Not especially, I'd argue, for reasons we'll address after the clip:


Some points:  (1) As I mentioned in the segment, the Obama's second term has been littered with unilateral action, often of dubious legality, in pursuit of ideological and legacy-building obsessions on which the president has failed to persuade the American people.  Whether it's gun control (several polling trends and public conduct have moved against his position), climate change (an extremely low priority for voters), immigration amnesty-by-fiat (unpopular and illegal, according to the courts), shuttering Gitmo (a dangerous and unpopular fixation that's been opposed by a large bipartisan Congressional majority for years), or forging the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran (also highly unpopular, for very good reason), Obama is routinely stiff-arming the will of the people in blind pursuit of his agenda.  He's always been a hardened ideologue, a reality that's more obvious than ever before.

(2) Even if one concedes, as I do, that Obama's tears were authentic, so what?  Emotionalism must not guide public policy.  Here are some facts: Gun ownership is at an all-time high, while violent crime has fallen to multi-decade lows.  As more Americans buy more guns, the country's murder rate has plummeted by half since 1993, with that trend continuing after the expiration of the so-called "assault weapons ban" in the mid-2000's.  Multiple rigorous studies have shown that there is no correlation between a state's gun laws and gun ownership levels and its homicide rate.  (Incidentally, "gun deaths" statistics include suicides, which account for a hefty majority gun-related deaths in the US.  Relatedly, Japan has the highest suicide rate in the developed world.  Guns are banned in Japan).  Indeed, many jurisdictions with the loosest gun laws have exceptionally low crime rates, while jurisdictions with the most restrictive laws are awash in blood caused by gun violence.  One key question is whether any of the steps announced by the president this week would have prevented the horrific mass shootings he and gun control advocates so often invoke to justify their policy preferences.  According to an Associated Press  fact check, the answer is 'no.'  Allahpundit is right: This is largely about moral signaling to the media and the liberal base.

(3) As for Julie's final point -- to which I couldn't respond due to time constraints -- there are a number of elements of Obama's action that seem sensible and relatively uncontroversial.  Directing more money towards mental health issues, for example, is a worthwhile acknowledgement of a real underlying problem when it comes to violent crime in America. And allocating additional resources for the government to execute mandatory background checks and enforce existing laws isn't likely to draw many objections. (Stepping up prosecutions of 'straw purchaser' violations may also be a good idea; the Obama administration has been weak on this front).  The most controversial element of Obama's plan is closing a "loophole" that doesn't exist -- gun show sales account for an infinitesimally tiny percentage of criminal gun purchases -- and vaguely expanding the definition of what constitutes a gun dealer, to whom background check requirements apply.  This last point raises constitutional concerns, including questions about executive overreach.  Constitutional scholar Jonathan Adler argues that this provision floats between meaninglessness and illegality. Expect court challenges.  Secondly, when Julie argues that nobody is proposing gun confiscation or major curtailment of the second amendment, she ignores that fact that both President Obama and Hillary Clinton have hailed Australia's gun control regime -- which is draconian and explicitly confiscatory in nature, and the implementation of which relied on a registry.  (By the way, Australia's murder rate and trends  weren't significantly altered by the gun ban; people found other ways to kill each other).  Many influential national Democrats clearly favor radical gun control in their heart of hearts.  It's not a mystery why law abiding gun owners and their allies aren't eager to surrender an inch when they fear that fundamental rights are in jeopardy.

(4) Lastly, I'll reiterate an argument I made in the clip.  In 2009 and 2010, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid ruled the roost in DC.  They controlled both elected branches of the federal government with sizable majorities, and for roughly three months, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof majority.  Their top priority was to jam through Obamacare over the will of the people, an action that  continues to harm American families to this day.  What they didn't do was pass (non-Obamacare) tax increases, or vote to "improve access to birth control," or reform the immigration system, or impose additional gun control measures.  No, they tabled those alleged "priorities" for future use as wedge issues with which to pummel and blame Republicans.  Democrats had a golden opportunity to pursue virtually anything their Statist hearts desired, and they took a number of notable passes.  Voters should keep this in mind every single time Obama whinges about Congress' inaction, as if that alone is a viable excuse to abuse his authority by acting beyond the scope of the constitution's separation of powers.