Last week, President Biden delivered a prime time address to the nation on “Gun Violence in America.” The speech was long on drama, including several explicit references to God and a maudlin display of candles behind the presidential podium. The occasion was in fact serious, coming as it did just days after two mass murders committed by a pair of obviously deeply troubled young men with the blackest of evil in their hearts and minds; but the speech offered nothing of real value.
This failure to use the presidential bully pulpit to propose serious solutions to serious problems reflects a deliberate decision by Mr. Biden to not address the causes of recent mass homicides. Indeed, this has become the generational failure of Democrats to “do something” about what is now endemic violence in our culture.
Democrats’ myopic focus on gun control is itself a tacit recognition that it is far more difficult, costly and politically sensitive to tackle the root causes of such tragedies than it is to rail against “guns!”
Ah, yes — “root causes.”
Following her visit to Central America in the summer of 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris repeatedly lectured us to address the “root causes” of migration. Too bad Biden did not heed her advice when addressing “gun violence” last week.
Other than a passing reference in his June 2 speech to the “mental health” aspect of violence-prone individuals like the evildoers in Buffalo, Uvalde and other sites of mass shootings, President Biden failed to address any of the “root causes” of such tragedies. Even when he did refer briefly to “mental health,” it was as a “consequence” of gun violence rather than a cause of gun violence (which it is).
In every way, except perhaps as a political cudgel to browbeat a few GOP senators into endorsing some of his gun control proposals, the president’s speech was an opportunity lost. This, of course, is no surprise considering that gun control has served as the Democrat default response to virtually every such tragedy going back at least to Columbine in 1999.
Aside from the glaring failure (or refusal) to address any of the issues that gave rise to the perpetrators of these two most recent gun violence tragedies, Biden’s speech was a rehash of the time-worn wish list of the gun-control agenda hawked for years by the movement’s activists: banning “assault rifles” and “high capacity magazines,” expanding background checks and enacting a national “red flag” law.
Predictably, Biden promised that his proposals were “not about taking away anyone’s guns.” Within seconds, however, he proposed to do just that – take away the most popular rifle in the country, owned by some 20 million Americans. One has to admire the president’s ability to contradict himself expressly, facilely, and quickly without skipping a beat.
Then, as if he has suddenly discovered a new law of physics, Biden declared that the Second Amendment “is not absolute.” Of course, no one in any position of leadership or credibility in the firearms community has maintained otherwise. Yet, having discovered this new principle, the president employed it to focus the power of his office on what are demonstrably irrelevant factors for addressing the elements of mass shootings in our culture, and as a shield to avoid actually doing so.
Nowhere in his speech, for example, did the president even touch on two extremely important factors that were at play in the Uvalde school shooting – “hardening” schools to minimize the chances of being victim to such horror and improving police training.
Federal grants for these critical areas could help, perhaps dramatically, to avoid such tragedies. Sadly, there appears to be little interest within the Democrat Party for funding school safety programs or improving local police training on how to handle a school shooting. The Party’s interests lie elsewhere.
It is telling that Biden’s gun violence speech came just one day after his administration proudly announced a multi-billion dollar student loan forgiveness program. This juxtaposition clearly reflects the priorities of today’s Democrat Party – pampering students after they graduate and are of voting age is more important than the safety of students still in schools.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.