Once again Thursday, President Obama stood before the nation and tried to provide both a personal and a policy perspective on yet another mass shooting in America.
In a twist that caught our attention, Obama placed some of the blame for the seemingly inexorable series of shootings on the news media. Too much about the nation’s reaction to the kind of horror we watched unfold in Oregon this week has become predictable, Obama said.
“Somehow this has become routine,” he said. “The reporting is routine. My response to it up here at this podium becomes routine.”
Obama urged media outlets to compare the number of deaths by gunfire each year to the death toll from terrorist attacks. (In response, using federal data CNN found that from 2004 and 2013, 316,545 people died by firearms in the U.S. During the same period, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas by terrorists was 277, while another 36 were killed in domestic acts of terrorism.)
Certainly news outlets can do more to illuminate the root causes of gun deaths and mass shootings, from weak gun laws to state and federal funding cuts that have left mental health programs without the resources to meet the ever-expanding needs of Americans.
But the news media — and Obama in his remaining time in office — must also keep the pressure on Congress to pass reasonable gun control laws. The mass shooting tragedy in America reflects a failure in leadership, and the president is not without fault.
“I’d ask the American people to think how they can get our government to change these laws …” Obama advised Thursday, sounding oddly removed from the legislative process. For starters, the American people can urge the president to be more proactive and less reactive.
Yes, we know Obama is frustrated with a Congress that seems to shudder whenever the National Rifle Association sends out a news release. So are the majority of the American people. So are we. But the best way for the president to address the NRA’s influence over federal lawmakers is to relentlessly fight back, calling out by name those who stand in the way of progress and using the power of the presidency — along with his bully pulpit — to continue to push for solutions.