President Barack Obama made a bipartisan appeal to voters on gun control in the first campaign-style speech on tighter gun legislation that is expected to characterize his second term. The president pushed voters to lobby their legislators on gun safety laws as he attempts to under-cut the political choke-hold the National Rifle Association has on Congress.
“Tell them now is the time for action, that we’re not going to wait for the next Newtown, or the next Aurora,” he said. “If there’s even one thing we can do to keep our children and our communities safe… We’ve got an obligation to take that step. We’ve got an obligation to give our police officers and our communities the tools they need to make some of the same progress that has been made her in Minneapolis.”
Minneapolis has curbed 66 percent of young people involved in gun violence in just five years and universal background checks has been a big push of the city’s gun control efforts.
“The overwhelming majority of gun owners think [universal background checks are] a good idea,” Obama said, citing recent polling that show a strong majority of Americans favor the background checks. “So if we’ve got lobbyists in Washington claiming to speak for gun owners saying something different, we need to go to the source and reach out to people directly.”
In Minnesota, Obama hopes to find a perfect storm of political forces from which to launch a gun control movement. Minnesota has both a long history of gun ownership and hunting and city and state-instituted gun laws. There have also been recent efforts to amplify these laws and polling shows there’s a majority support for assault-weapons ban, too.
Minneapolis, where the president spoke, has worked in recent years to shed the moniker ‘Murder-opolis’ and has credited city gun laws for much of their successful stemming of gun violence. City politicians have clamored for wider state and federal gun restrictions to support their local laws.
“We have done so much, and we’re committed to doing more,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, a Democrat, told USA Today. “But there is also only so much you can do at this level to prevent illegal guns from getting into the hands of kids, the mentally ill and people who shouldn’t have them.”
Like so many other communities, there’s also a recent tragedy from gun violence in the state–a dismissed employee killed four employees and wounded four others before killing himself in September in one of the deadliest attacks in Minnesota’s recent history.
Minnesota’s elected officials also represent the uphill political battle the president faces: the National Rifle Association backs all four Republicans and two of the Democrats who represent Minnesota in the House of Representatives – and one Obama hopes to use popular support from voters to combat. Even the state’s two Democrats have shown just lukewarm support for the reinstatement of a federal assault weapons ban.