Barack Obama has come out in favor of tighter gun sales control following the Colorado tragedy. Whether America should impose restrictions on gun sales is one of the most contentious issues between the incumbent president running for a second term and his key Republican rival Mitt Romney.
The latter is a firm supporter of America’s gun ownership traditions. Heated controversy around gun control may spill into a tough battle between the Democrats and the Republicans ahead of the November polls.
Obama’s statement came at a moment when the advocates of a tougher gun sales law had nearly lost all hope of his ever fulfilling his pre-election promise. Indeed, nothing had signaled that it could be otherwise until a 24-year-old Colorado psychopath, James Holmes, burst into a movie theater and opened fire, killing 12 and wounding dozens of viewers. Hours after the tragedy, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the problem was too obvious to be ignored and urged Obama and Romney to explain to the nation what they were going to do about it.
Romney was the first to speak up. He said he didn’t believe that America needed new gun laws, that it would not make all bad things go away, and that what America really needed was not new gun laws but “changes in the heart of the American people”. But he didn’t give any clue as to what kind of changes should take place to prevent madmen or psychologically unstable teenagers who have free access to assault rifles from going on bloody shooting sprees.
Obama, in his speech at the National League Convention in New Orleans, called for a common sense approach, saying that for all the traditions of gun ownership that were part of the national heritage, something needed to be done to prevent mentally unstable people, criminals and fugitives from purchasing guns. “A lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s should belong to soldiers, not criminals,” Obama said.
By the way, soon after the Colorado movie shooting, police in the Maine State arrested a local resident, Timothy Courtois. He was speeding down a highway with an AK-47, four pistols and ammunition in his car, with the apparent intention of squaring accounts with his boss.
It would certainly be naïve to expect the gun lobby to easily give away its interests. But the very fact that the president and gun owners declared their positions straightforwardly and outspokenly inspires hope.