Weekly Address: President Obama – Making America Safer for Our Children

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President reflected on the progress of the past year, and looked forward to working on unfinished business in the coming year, particularly when it comes to the epidemic of gun violence. As he has many times before, the President reminded us that Congress has repeatedly failed to take action and pass laws that would reduce gun violence. That’s why the President a few months ago tasked his White House team with identifying new actions he can take to help reduce gun violence, and on Monday will meet with the Attorney General to discuss the options. In his address, the President called on everyone to join him in the fight to reduce gun violence, because it’s going to take all of us to make America safer for our children.

Transcript: Weekly Address: Making America Safer for Our Children

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address, The White House, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year, everybody. I am fired up for the year that stretches out before us. That’s because of what we’ve accomplished together over the past seven.

Seven years ago, our businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month. They’ve now created jobs for 69 straight months, driving the unemployment rate from a high of 10% down to 5%.

Seven years ago, too many Americans went without health insurance. We’ve now covered more than 17 million people, dropping the rate of the uninsured below 10% for the very first time.

Seven years ago, we were addicted to foreign oil. Now our oil imports have plummeted, our clean energy industry is booming, and America is a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Seven years ago, there were only two states in America with marriage equality. And now there are 50.

All of this progress is because of you. And we’ve got so much more to do. So my New Year’s resolution is to move forward on our unfinished business as much as I can. And I’ll be more frequently asking for your help. That’s what this American project is all about.

That’s especially true for one piece of unfinished business, that’s our epidemic of gun violence.

Last month, we remembered the third anniversary of Newtown. This Friday, I’ll be thinking about my friend Gabby Giffords, five years into her recovery from the shooting in Tucson. And all across America, survivors of gun violence and those who lost a child, a parent, a spouse to gun violence are forced to mark such awful anniversaries every single day.

And yet Congress still hasn’t done anything to prevent what happened to them from happening to other families. Three years ago, a bipartisan, commonsense bill would have required background checks for virtually everyone who buys a gun. Keep in mind, this policy was supported by some 90% of the American people. It was supported by a majority of NRA households. But the gun lobby mobilized against it. And the Senate blocked it.

Since then, tens of thousands of our fellow Americans have been mowed down by gun violence. Tens of thousands. Each time, we’re told that commonsense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, so we shouldn’t do anything.

We know that we can’t stop every act of violence. But what if we tried to stop even one? What if Congress did something – anything – to protect our kids from gun violence?

A few months ago, I directed my team at the White House to look into any new actions I can take to help reduce gun violence. And on Monday, I’ll meet with our Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, to discuss our options. Because I get too many letters from parents, and teachers, and kids, to sit around and do nothing. I get letters from responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time these tragedies happen; who share my belief that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms; and who share my belief we can protect that right while keeping an irresponsible, dangerous few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.

Thanks, everybody.

Bolding added.




  1. Seven years ago …

    We were 19 days away from Barack Obama’s first inauguration, a day that signaled a momentous change in America, a day that would unleash the furies of racism and bigotry and hatred of The Other but also a day that gave the rest of us hope for a future that included all Americans. Much of the hope for change was dashed by a recalcitrant and obstructionist Congress, not just when we lost our majorities in 2010 but when the Democratic Senate lost its will and was unable to pass bills that would have gotten us out of the Great Recession sooner. But we did get a recovery act, a health care act, and, hugely, an administration dedicated to cleaning up the mess that the Bush Administration had made of the Justice Department where cronyism had destroyed the rule of law. Big stuff.

    And this:


    This year we need to remember what a Democratic administration can do, even without Congress. And not give up working to give the next president a more Democratic Congress … election cycle after election cycle … until Congress finally reflects We The People instead of the cynical gerrymandered America devised by red state governors.

  2. In the News: New York Times Editorial, January 1st: Two Ways of Dealing With Guns

    This is a big day for Texans yearning to flaunt their handguns in belt and shoulder holsters. A new “open carry” law enacted by the Republican Legislature goes into effect on Friday, posing a challenge for law enforcement, businesses and other institutions that are understandably wary of how social interchange will be affected.

    It’s also a big day in Seattle, where the City Council’s new “gun violence tax” takes effect, levying a $25 charge on each gun sold and an ammunition tax of 2 to 5 cents per round. The law was upheld in December by a county judge, who found it did not interfere with the right to bear arms and was a legitimate tax to finance gun violence research and help pay for its costly effects. If it survives appeal by the gun lobby, the taxation route deserves to be widely used as a tactic in battling the gun menace.

    The contrasting developments in Texas and Seattle demonstrate politicians’ tug of war over gun rights and civilian safety, which the gun lobby has been manipulating by pushing through state laws that block local governments from enacting needed ordinances. […]

    The effect of the industry’s power on local streets has the Houston police chief, Charles McClelland, worrying about how his officers will deal with openly armed citizens amid rising fears over mass shootings and terrorism. “How are they supposed to know who the good guy or the bad guy is with the gun?” he asks.

    Indeed. Forty-five other states allow open carry so it is not just Texas. As the editorial points out, a man openly brandishing a weapon on a Colorado street caused alarm to a resident who called police. She was told that the law allowed the man to openly carry his weapon … and minutes later he opened fire and killed three strangers whose right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was trumped by that man’s right to openly carry a weapon.

    • The Seattle tax:

      [The Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that] places a $25 tax on gun sales and up to a 5-cent tax per bullet sold within city limits. It’s set to take effect on Jan. 1.

      The law’s challengers alleged the tax “is an impermissible regulation of firearms,” according to court documents.

      Judge Palmer Robinson of King County Superior Court shot down that claim, saying the city does have the authority to levy the tax and is not attempting to regulate gun sales.

      Does a tax on cigarettes “regulate” tobacco products? Does a tax on hotel rooms “regulate” sleeping? Does a tax on fuel “regulate” our right to drive our cars? Perhaps, to the extent that you have to pay more and might decide not to buy or consume whatever is being taxed. But that is a stretch that is going to be difficult to make as that lawsuit is appealed through state courts and then probably all the way to the Supreme Court.

  3. Reports on the president’s planned actions …

    ThinkProgress: Obama Reportedly Will Move To Expand Gun Background Checks By Executive Order

    “[T]he set of executive actions would fulfill a promise by the President to take further unilateral steps the White House says could help curb gun deaths,” CNN reported. “[G]un control advocates are expecting the new actions to be revealed next week, ahead of Obama’s annual State of the Union address, set for January 12.”

    In 2015, 457 people died from 353 mass shootings (as of December 17). After Congress blocked legislative efforts, the president will now take executive action to attempt to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals.

    Obama’s focus will be on “gun show loopholes” that allow purchasing guns without background checks in certain situations, including at certain aforementioned gun shows. He’ll also boost enforcement of laws on the books. Under the current law, only full-time gun sellers need to make background checks. Occasional sellers are not required to.


    Reuters: Obama, frustrated by Congress, plans unilateral gun control steps

    The [Washington] Post said Obama would use executive authority in several areas, including expanding background-check requirements for buyers who purchase weapons from high-volume dealers.

    Ted Alcorn, research director for gun control advocacy group Everytown, said Everytown officials met with Obama in December to make recommendations for executive action.

    Top among them was a regulation to clarify when gun sellers need a federal firearms license, he said.

    Thousands of guns are sold yearly by dealers who fall between licensed dealers and occasional sellers who do not need a license. Clarification could define which sellers need to meet rules and do background checks. Alcorn said.

  4. Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted in response to reports of President Obama’s planned initiatives:

    “Obama wants to impose more gun control. My response? COME & TAKE IT.”

    I’m sorry, I have no clue what the heck he means. Come and take what???? Does anyone have a Texas Gun Humper to Intelligent Human translator?

  5. Thanks for this, Jan! I do hope this becomes the year that something is finally done. This country is insane. Mothers Against Drunk Driving hasn’t stopped drunk driving but it did accomplish one thing: it’s become socially unacceptable to drive drunk or to brag about driving drunk.

    Myself, I think background checks might help but the only thing that would really work is confiscation or voluntarily turning in weapons. We turned in the revolver that Dearly Beloved acquired when he was an auxiliary police officer. We’ve never missed it. Locked doors and windows and a barking dog are our counter methods of choice.

    • I think to own a gun for self-defense means being willing to use it on another human being. I am not sure I could. So like you, locked doors and a barking dog will have to be enough. The other thing is that I don’t fear all the things that most of these folks fear: I don’t fear diversity, I don’t fear a government takeover of health care, I don’t fear Muslims, I don’t worry about Daesh coming to my front door to behead me. I do fear a gunhumper accidentally shooting off a weapon in a theatre or a mall or thinking he is seeing a robbery in progress at my bank and exchanging gunfire with his delusions … but me being armed is not going to stop that.

      You are exactly right about MADD – they shamed drunk drivers and, really, drunks. The NRA-inflamed right will never be shamed so I will settle for a few more dangerous people no longer being able to buy guns.

  6. In the News: When Bipartisan Responses to National Problems were not the third-rail of right-wing politics …

    Michael Oxley, a former Republican congressman from Ohio, died this morning at 71.

    Rep. Oxley’s name is plenty familiar to anybody who works in finance. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 governs almost every aspect of a company’s financial reporting and accounting practices, and people in the industry often complain about the cost of complying with all the reporting rules.[…]

    … what’s often forgotten is why Sarbanes-Oxley was passed. Before the financial crisis of 2008, there was the the dot-com implosion of 2000, and the high-profile fraud revealed by the collapse of Enron and the alleged complicity of its auditing company, the late Arthur Andersen.

    As Oxley recalled five years later, there was intense pressure on Congress to reform corporate accounting in America.

    As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he said he barely could risk walking onto the House floor, because he would be “besieged” by colleagues who’d just come back from their districts, where their constituents had demanded reform.

    It was not that long ago that Republicans placed their constituents over their political donors. The “new” Republicans are trying to gut this law and Dodd-Frank, the law passed, with little bipartisan support, to help protect us from the financial industry excesses that led to the Great Recession.

    • Yes, saw Oxley’s obit in the WaPo just now. This seems so long ago:

      It was not that long ago that Republicans placed their constituents over their political donors.


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