By Tyler Pruett
Our elected officials from the federal to state level had strong words for President Obama’s action on firearms announced earlier this week. On Tuesday, Obama held a press conference at the White House and outlined his strategy to, “Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer.”
The points of the executive action focused on closing perceived loopholes within existing laws and requesting more funding to support mental health programs as well as ATF and FBI support for background checks. The order amounts to guidelines recommended to the Justice Department and Congress. While Obama voiced his frustrations on a lack of legislation passed by Congress, many in office expressed their own frustrations with the president’s agenda.
Among Alabama’s legislative delegation in Washington, opposition to the Obama’s actions was virtually unanimous, with the exception of Democrat U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL-07), who stated that, “Our nation must take common sense actions to stem the rising tide of gun violence that has claimed far too many lives.” Criticism from the Republican side of the aisle came sharp and swift. While various factors were blamed for gun violence, the GOP remained unified in the sense that firearms are not to blame. U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) highlighted the issue of morality and commented that, “As we know our problem in America is not a gun problem. It is a cultural problem and a problem of the heart by these criminals. No new gun laws can change the attitude of someone who is so lost in this world that they are bent on killing others.” U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), in an opinion editorial for Yellowhammer News, cited policy flaws in Obama’s Justice Department for relaxing sentencing guidelines and releasing dangerous criminals early. While the Justice Department is being directed to release criminals early, “the administration is acting to make it harder for law-abiding Americans to purchase guns while freeing some of the most dangerous felons in the world.”
Reaction across the state and nation closely followed party lines, indicating that it is unlikely this round of executive orders will move the issue any further through Congress than such measures of the past. Reaction among the candidates contending for U.S. President also closely followed party lines. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made clear his disdain for the National Rifle Association (NRA), saying that, “it’s become clear that no mass shooting, no matter how big or bloody, will inspire Republicans to put children and innocent Americans over the interests of the NRA.” Republican frontrunner Donald Trump while on Fox & Friends appreciated the president’s sincerity and felt his, “heart was in the right place,” but alleged that he was eroding the second amendment, saying, “His idea is just taking chunks and chunks out of the Second Amendment until we don’t have a Second Amendment anymore, and people need protection.” Reaction among the general public seems to also follow along the same party lines. Social media seems to be a frequently used outlet for citizens to voice support or opposition to proposed gun control measures. Public opinion also indicates that this highly politicized issue will likely not translate to any concrete legislation being passed.