President Obama on Thursday moved quickly to rally support for his proposals on reducing gun violence with an op-ed urging lawmakers to “act soon” on his recommendations.
In the op-ed for the Connecticut Post, published Thursday, which draws from the president's remarks at a Wednesday event unveiling his gun-violence-reduction package, Obama touted the 23 executive actions he signed into law. Those measures include efforts to improve existing background checks and gun safety, and even encourage doctors to ask patients about guns in their homes.
The Connecticut Post is based in Bridgeport, just 20 miles from Newtown, where last month a lone gunman killed 20 elementary school children, sparking a renewed debate over gun violence.
The editorial is the latest salvo in a high-stakes fight as the White House looks to pressure Congress to act on Obama’s demand for new gun-ownership restrictions.
The White House on Thursday also sent a letter signed by Vice President Joe Biden to its public email list looking to rally support for the president’s proposals. Biden headed a task force that presented its recommendations to Obama this week.
“The ideas we sent to President Obama are straightforward,” Biden says. “Each of them honors the rights of law-abiding, responsible Americans to bear arms. Some of them will require action from Congress; the President is acting on others immediately. But they're all commonsense and will help make us a little safer.”
The email directs supporters to the White House’s new multi-media website on preventing gun violence. The site heading reads “Now is the time to do something,” and features videos of Obama speaking about gun reform and pictures of him visiting young victims in the hospital.
The administration is pressing lawmakers to quickly implement universal background checks on all firearm purchasers and restore the federal ban on military-style assault weapons and a limit on the size of ammunition magazines.
Obama, who has sought to rally public support in past battles over taxes and spending, said the public alone could convince Congress to take action.
“The truth is, there's only one voice powerful enough to make this happen: yours. If you think we've suffered too much pain to allow this to continue, put down the paper, turn off the computer, and get your members of Congress on record,” Obama wrote. “Ask them if they support universal background checks or renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if they say no, ask them why not. Ask them why getting an A-grade from the gun lobby is more important than giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade.”
Congressional Republicans and the nation’s pro-gun-rights groups, most notably the National Rifle Association (NRA), have said they will oppose Obama’s actions and proposals on guns, accusing him of seeking to gut the Second Amendment with policies that will do little to make the public safer.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that President Obama opposes the Second Amendment but “doesn’t have the guts to admit it.”
“I actually think the president, and he just doesn’t have the guts to admit it, is not a believer in the Second Amendment, although he states that he is,” Rubio said on Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” “If he doesn’t want the Second Amendment to be in the Constitution, or if he wants to reform the Second Amendment, then have the guts to admit that.”
Obama dismissed this notion in the editorial.
“Like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms,” he wrote. “There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in this country, who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting, or sport; protection, or collection. But I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from doing harm. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Connecticut. And that's what these commonsense reforms are designed to do.”
Public opinion polls show a majority of the country backs some form of gun reform.
According to a Time-CNN poll released Wednesday, the public’s support for tighter gun laws matches Obama’s approval rating, with 55 percent saying they support stricter measures, against 44 percent who said they oppose.
“None of this will be easy,” Obama continues. “Already we're seeing pundits, politicians and special interest lobbyists warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because it's true, but because it gins up fear, or higher ratings, or more revenue for themselves.”
Gun-rights activists say criminals won’t abide by the new laws Congress imposes, so the laws will only affect law-abiding gun owners. They also argue that the legislation Obama is trying to get from Congress has been proven ineffective in the past.
The NRA has vowed “the fight of the century” in opposing Obama’s proposed initiatives.
This story was last updated at 9:48 a.m.