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Davis, California

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Obama’s gun control legacy

PUBLIC DOMAIN / PETE SOUZA
PUBLIC DOMAIN / PETE SOUZA

headshot_taThe importance of Obama’s humanity moving into a Trump administration

I sobbed for a good half-hour on election day.

Partly because Donald Trump had just become the President-elect for our nation, but mostly because it finally hit me that President Barack Obama wouldn’t be leading our nation anymore.

Not only are we seeing the exit of one of the most charismatic, humble and inspiring leaders that this nation has ever seen, but we are also saying goodbye to a man that made sweeping changes to gun control. We are saying goodbye to a man who swiftly responded to national tragedy countless times. We are saying goodbye to a man who called for reform, and when he didn’t get the support needed for it from Congress, signed executive orders to implement changes that many felt were necessary.

Following the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama addressed the nation in his usual eloquent fashion. He promised to “use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators…[because] we can’t accept events like this as routine.” And he tried to do just that, signing a series of executive orders in January that attempted to curb gun violence.

One of the reforms he passed was to strengthen federal background checks by improving processing rates and redirecting more law enforcement to that cause. The mandate also states that no matter where a gun seller is conducting his or her business, they must be licensed and able to conduct background checks. In re-allocating more law enforcement resources to background checks, Obama’s executive order creates accountability on the part of gun sellers.

But it still doesn’t close the straw-purchasing loophole that so many criminals go through to purchase guns. Furthermore, background checks aren’t required at a state level, and only 11 states have extended the background check requirement to some private sales of guns and handguns.

The executive action also included a commitment to improve the quality and accessibility of mental health care to those Americans in need. Obama proposed a new $500 million investment to help individuals with mental illness. In the proposal, he aimed to increase accessibility of mental health care by expanding the service capacity of hospitals and the behavioral workforce. Obama’s eventual goal, through this executive order, is to protect our communities by increasing access to mental health care and eventually lowering the number of deaths caused by suicides — the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

Not only are Obama’s actions so exemplary of his legacy as president, but they also speak well to his character. When you listen to the speech he gave after the Sandy Hook shooting, you can hear the pain in his voice. You can see the empathy in his eyes. When he says he wants to increase accessibility to mental health care so that troubled individuals don’t die in vain, you believe him.

On Jan. 20, 2017, our country will say goodbye to President Obama and a reluctant hello to a man who uncritically supports the Second Amendment. That’s within his right, because everyone, including Donald Trump, is entitled to their opinion. But it’s when those opinions get in the way of real progress that problems arise.

In response to a CNN interview question asking what we should do about gun violence in relation to mental illness, he responded, “These are sick people. This has nothing to do with guns, this has to do with the mentality of these people.” And when asked what we should do to curb violence in a different interview, he argued that gun laws really have nothing to do with a solution and that it was natural for people to “slip through the cracks.”

A callous and careless response to a serious question is exactly what you would expect from Trump, but it’s still shocking, considering how much gun violence factors into today’s sharply divided America. In fact, the United States’ gun violence problem has everything to do with the laws and nothing to do with the inevitability of people “sometimes” making mistakes.

After the Sandy Hook shooting, President Obama pleaded with the nation to not “accept events like this as routine.” Donald Trump has not shown the same kind of commitment to the nation’s safety.

Remembering President Obama and his character for the next four years will be vital if we are to hold Trump accountable in moments of crisis. Keep Obama’s morals and values in the back of your mind. Because when 2020 rolls around, we need to elect someone like him for president.

 

Written by: Tamanna Ahluwalia — tahluwalia@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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