Last night's debate question about gun violence did little to clarify what the two candidates would do about gun control. Their responses disappointed many viewers, including Stephen Barton, a 22-year-old survivor of the Aurora movie theater shooting in Colorado. Barton issued a statement lauding the discussion over gun violence, but pointed to the lack of specifics in both candidates' responses.
"The demands of 270,000 Americans for President Obama and Governor Romney to address gun violence broke through during tonight’s debate. I am glad that a concerned citizen asked about guns — but sadly, there were no real answers,” Mr. Barton explained. “We are going to keep demanding a specific plan from both candidates to end gun violence.”
It was surprising to many that a question about gun violence would be raised in a national forum considering politicians have shied from either end of the gun control spectrum - the two stances of protecting the right for Americans to own guns or controlling, or as some are calling for, limiting, gun ownership. But with the constant news of mass shootings in 2012, moderator Candy Crowley chose an audience member's question about the issue of gun violence, asking what would be done to limit the availability of assault weapons and keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.
President Obama immediately acknowledged the Aurora tragedy, citing his meeting with a mother who laid at the bedside of her her son, who had been shot in the Colorado movie theater. The President went on further to state that we should enforce the laws that are already in place, and called for "a comprehensive strategy" and "a broader conversation" to reduce gun violence.
Mitt Romney touched on a lot of topics in his response, but seemingly failed to answer the question. Echoing the President's response, Governor Romney started his response by promising "enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have." He then veered off to link education and home life to that culture of violence.
"Let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the -- the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea. Because if there's a two parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will -- will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity, and bring them in the American system."
After he finished implicating that having less single mothers is a way to reduce gun violence, Romney declared the "Fast and Furious" debacle was the nation's "greatest failure," as drug lords were able to obtain AK-47 type weapons. Candy Crowley pressed him on his history with the assault weapon ban, as she and President Obama recalled Romney signing an assault weapons ban before he officially changed his stance in September, when he met with the NRA's chief lobbyist. On September 17, two survivors of mass shootings, including Stephen Barton, and two relatives of the shooting victims, sent Romney a letter requesting an opportunity to ask the candidate questions about gun control laws. They wrote,
"Like most Americans, we strongly support the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding gun owners. And like most Americans, we believe out elected officials have a responsibility to do much more to keep guns out of the wrong hands."