Marquette Wire

Obama pushes for greater gun control

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In his latest effort to push stricter gun control legislation, President Obama traveled to Minneapolis Monday, where he praised the city’s efforts to decrease gun violence.

The campaign-like speech, Obama’s first time speaking on the issue outside Washington following the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., follows the president’s Jan. 16 address, in which he specifically called for stricter background checks for gun purchase.

On that day, the president signed 23 executive orders strengthening previous laws and increasing efforts to enforce them. Democrats in Washington are also pushing for a complete ban on assault weapons.

Many Americans have expressed concerns that these proposals conflict with Second Amendment rights. Obama said most Americans support increased gun control legislation and that Congress needs to stand by those beliefs.

“Changing the status quo is never easy,” Obama said. “This will be no exception. The only way we can reduce gun violence in this county is if the American people decide it’s important. If you decide it’s important.”

Paul Nolette, an assistant professor of political science, said the president will face much opposition to his original address.

“I think the president’s proposal is an effort to move the issue of gun control higher up on the national agenda and build a coalition supporting new gun laws,” Nolette said. “He’s going to need to put a lot of his political capital into this effort if he wants to achieve results, because he will run into a lot of resistance on Capitol Hill.”

Amber Wichowsky, an assistant professor of political science, said Democrats could have difficulties passing legislation concerning gun control.

“With divided control of government, high levels of political polarization and the small number of truly competitive congressional districts, I don’t see much hope for gun control legislation passing,” Wichowsky said. “While Sen. (Diane) Feinstein has introduced legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, Democrats are unlikely to muster the 60 votes they need to overcome a filibuster threat, and Republicans are unlikely to take up the bill in the House.”

Obama’s proposals are largely seen as a response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. While there have been many high-profile shootings across the country in the last two years, the death toll and the young age of the victims at Newtown have left the public in a state of shock for an extended period of time.

“Public opinion data also suggest that this time might be different,” Wichowsky said. “While public attention to gun control spikes after a mass shooting, it typically recedes. But public attention to gun control has been sustained in the aftermath of Newtown, and the issue is likely to continue to receive media coverage, particularly as President Obama uses his bully pulpit to push Congress on the issue.”

The president will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 12, when he is expected to push Congress to act on gun control.

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