President Obama held a press conference today to announce the formation of a gun violence task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden. This seems like a good idea considering that in 1994, then-U.S. Sen. Biden was a key author of a 1994 crime bill that banned assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004, but there are renewed calls to reinstate it after the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Many questions asked by the press concerned the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations, but the one that stood out most to me was the last one, asked by ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper. The question itself wasn’t a bad one per se, but the way he asked it seemed a bit rude and confrontational (especially if you hear it rather than just read it in a transcript):

“It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008, in your first term and in 2012, not to talk about gun violence,” Tapper said. “You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Sen. Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first issue — the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?”

Obama responded with what I thought was an appropriate “smackdown” response:

Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake. I’ve been president of the United States, dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.

And so, you know, I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington. And as I said on Sunday, you know, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And it’s my commitment to make sure that, that we do everything we can to keep our children safe. A lot of things go — are involved in that, Jake. So making sure they’ve got decent health care and making sure they’ve got a good education, making sure that their parents have jobs — those are all relevant as well. Those aren’t just sort of side issues. But there’s no doubt that this has to be a central issue. And that’s exactly why I’m confident that Joe is going to take this so seriously over the next couple months.

Again, it was not inappropriate for Tapper to question Obama why he hasn’t done something about gun violence sooner, but I believe he could’ve asked his question in a less-confrontational manner.

You can read a full transcript of the press conference here.


The fitness center shootings near Pittsburgh last night provide a timely occasion to talk about American gun control laws. Today the topic was waylaid by news of the two American journalists released from imprisonment in North Korea, but hopefully in the coming days there will be some serious discussion of the subject that amounts to more than the usual political posturing that happens on both sides of the issue. (I know I’m asking for a lot more than we’re likely to get.)

Meanwhile, I want to share a quote from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who said it while talking about the tragic shootings on MSNBC earlier today:

“Why does Europe have about 1/100th of the homicide firearms (that) an equivalent population here has? Because there are not guns as readily available. And there are not killing machines like .9mm Glock semi-automatics being bought by people who have deep-seeded problems.

“I mean, look, we have to have commonsense gun laws. It wouldn’t have stopped it here, but what about a law that says you can purchase only one handgun a month? Now if you’re a legitimate gun owner and you want a gun to protect your family, you can buy 12 a year. But what that law does is it stops the trafficker who buys 20 .9mm guns in one trip to the gun store and then sells them at midnight on the streets of the city and makes two, three times the cost of purchasing them.”

Makes sense to me.

I’d like to know what you think about this topic, no matter your position, as long as you keep your posts civil.

According to a news story on CNN today, gun sales have surged since Barack Obama was elected president last Tuesday. Supposedly more guns and ammunition are being sold than after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina and during the Y2K scare.

The reason? Because gun owners are stockpiling weapons and ammunition in case Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress pass tougher gun laws, banning certain models and enacting higher taxes on ammunition.

Nevermind that Obama is on the record as saying he supports local governments setting their own gun laws. Gun restriction laws never pass quickly through Congress, so why the rush to buy more guns? Do people think new gun laws will be enacted next week, two months before Obama is even in office? I think the government has more pressing matters to worry about, such as the flagging economy.

I’m curious if this national trend is reflected in La Salle County. If I was still working for The Times, I would pitch that story idea.