In the aftermath of the shooting in Connecticut that has enveloped the country, many Americans reacted with shock, sympathy, and outrage. But some conservatives that I know also reacted in the following way: oh great, another reason for Obama to take away our ability to buy guns. To repeat, one of their initial reactions to the shootings in Connecticut was to conclude that our president was going to strip them of their right to buy guns.
It is a case study of just how potent perceptions can be in shaping how individuals view public figures. During the 2012 Presidential Election, America witnessed the Obama campaign team systematically turn Mitt Romney into an out-of-touch millionaire who knows more about turning a profit than sympathizing with the hardships of others. It was a masterful political stroke that helped to bury Romney’s chances at the presidency (along with his incessant “gaffes” that fed into the perceptions being stoked by the Obama campaign team).
But equally as masterful has been the conservative’s ability to turn President Obama into an anti-gun president waiting in the wings, so to speak, for the right opportunity to strip Americans of their right to buy or own them. But even after the July 20 shootings in Colorado that claimed the lives of 12 people, President Obama did not make a strong case for gun control, let along stripping Americans of their right to own guns entirely.
It’s plain enough to see for anyone who isn’t blinded by ideology that President Obama has not been a forceful advocate of gun control, no doubt assuming that this would only feed into the Republican Party narrative of him as a bleeding-heart liberal who is as un-American as Mao Zedong. In other words, President Obama may feel he only has a finite amount of political capital, so why “throw it away” on issues that he’s unlikely to win?
For most Americans however, and hopefully President Obama, gun control is no longer a taboo issue. This most recent shooting in Connecticut is a reminder that guns do kill, not just the individuals who pull the triggers. America can sit back and gasp every time an incident like this recent shooting occurs and then bury it in their memories or we can finally have, at the very least, an open public discussion about how we can reduce the likelihood that such an incident will ever occur again.
If business as usual is maintained, it won’t be a question of if another shooting will occur, but when and where.