The act of political courage that will be examined in this paper was done by President Barack Obama when he addressed the issue of gun control after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and 6 adults dead as a direct result of automatic weapons fire (Paulson 1). The wording of the speech goes directly towards the issue of gun control and how the current state of laws limiting the sale and distribution of fire arms are insufficient to address issues related to firearms ending up in the wrong hands.
Presently, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of gun violence in the world with well over 9,000 deaths per year due to firearm related deaths (that is, murders, suicides and accidental discharges) (Smith 26). The sheer amount of deaths has created numerous debates surrounding the accessibility of firearms within the country and how more stringent measures need to be implemented in order to address such an issue. Unfortunately, such measures have often been stalled due to numerous pundits citing the Second Amendment and the supposed need for firearms as a method of self-defense due to the fact that most criminals are armed. The speech attempts to persuade people on the basis of ethos that stricter methods of gun control need to be implemented to reduce the amount of violence connected to firearms.
This can be considered as an act of political courage due to the fact that the right to keep and bear arms is a part of the second amendment and, as such, has been vigorously defended by the NRA, various gun advocacy groups as well as millions of Americans who believe that owning a gun is almost a necessity given the potential for robberies, break-ins and homicides within the country (Stell 41). Thus, by making such a speech, President Obama in effect paints a giant bull’s-eye on this back when it comes to his election for a second term.
What does the Speech focus on?
The speech attempts to appeal to two particular aspects of the American ethos, namely: freedom and civil liberties. The main point of the argument presented is that while American’s enjoy numerous freedoms and civil liberties as an inherent right (that is, the right to bear arms), such rights must be tempered to a certain degree with discipline. The reason behind this is connected to the potential for abuse and how such actions could have a resoundingly negative impact on others within society (Johnson 837).
This takes the form of the President attempting to convince the American public in the righteousness of his cause on the basis of the image that he is portraying, namely, as an individual in power that understands the problem with gun control who has also actively attempted to resolve such an issue. It is this argument on the basis of a projected image that is a cause for concern, since basing it on a person’s knowledge and experience alone does not justify the action itself (Morella 20).
For example, a person may argue for the righteousness of a cause on the basis of their knowledge of the event, yet this persuasion attempt may be self-serving for the person that is attempting to persuade other individuals. This can be seen in the case of the President’s speech since prior to the events at Sandy Hook there has been no solid evidence that he has actively attempted to resolve issues related to gun violence within the U.S.
Obstacles to Implementing the Act
Aside from the fact that prior to the Sandy Hook incident the President did not focus on the issue of gun control and, as such, casts considerable doubt as to whether or not he is sincere in his claims, another issue that should be taken into consideration is the various gun lobbyists, especially the NRA, who spend millions a year in order to secure votes that focus on lifting restrictions on firearms (Collier 81). The sheer amount of money spent by these organizations and the amount of people that they have an influence on would impact any attempt to implement stricter forms of gun control. It should also be noted that without sufficient congressional support, Obama would be unable to successfully pass a law that guarantees effective restrictions and limits on gun ownership.
Consequences of the Speech
The most obvious consequence of the speech is that Barack Obama will not be elected for a second term. The reason behind this is quite simple: the citizens of a country want someone in power who reflects their current mindset and desires. This is particularly important for elected officials since it shows that the citizens that will place them in positions of power want someone who they can relate to, especially when it comes to the various civil rights that they hold dear.
It is based on this that by positioning himself as someone who is focusing on greater levels of gun control, Obama effectively alienates a large percentage of the current voting public (Eddlem 35). While it may be true that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has created a considerable level of mass consensus regarding the issue of guns and gun violence, the fact remains that at the end of the day this makes people more likely to actually own weapons in order to protect themselves from potential harm.
The speech “Obama on Gun Control” attempts to persuade people on the basis of ethos that stricter methods of gun control need to be implemented to reduce the amount of violence connected to firearms. Overall, the speech can be considered as resoundingly effective since it does not state that it would impinge on freedoms or take them away, rather, it focuses on implementing more discipline to avoid tragedies such as what occurred at Sandy Hook. Given the contents of the speech though, it can be expected that Obama will definitely be opposed during his run for a second term.
Collier, Charles W. “Gun Control In America: An Autopsy Report.” Dissent (00123846) 60.3 (2013): 81. Print.
Eddlem, Thomas R. “The Racist Origin Of America’s Gun Control Laws.” New American (08856540) 30.18 (2014): 35. Print.
Johnson, Nicholas J. “Imagining Gun Control In America: Understanding The Remainder Problem.” Wake Forest Law Review 43.4 (2008): 837-891. Print.
Morella, Michael. “America’s Gun Culture.” U.S. News Digital Weekly 4.15 (2012): 20. Print.
Paulson, Scott. ” Obama’s speech on gun control and gun violence in America.” Examiner.com. Examiner, 2013. Web.
Smith, Andrew. “America’s Gun Control Dilemma.” Quadrant Magazine 58.1/2 (2014): 26. Print
Stell, Lance K. “The Production Of Criminal Violence In America: Is Strict Gun Control The Solution.” Journal Of Law, Medicine & Ethics 32.1 (2004): 38-46. Print