President Obama advocated for more gun control measures in an editorial he wrote for the Harvard Law Review on Thursday.
In a lengthy essay titled “The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform,” Obama urged the country to “take commonsense steps to reduce gun violence” while celebrating the executive orders he has enacted.
“We also need to do everything we can to keep our children and communities safe from gun violence,” Obama said. “Addressing the country after mass shootings has been one of the most frustrating and disheartening responsibilities of being president–and it’s something I’ve had to do far too often.”
“The names of so many places that should be remembered for their great contributions and strong communities–places like Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, Charleston, and Orlando–still conjure up for me the deep sadness of so much unnecessary violence and loss,” the president continued.
He described gun violence as “an epidemic playing out across the country” and decried the involvement of firearms in crimes, suicides, and accidents.
Obama went on to say that he has “tried to remind the country of how much common ground we can find on these issues” before decrying the reaction many Americans have towards tragic shootings.
“After a tragic shooting, we always come together to wrap those who are grieving with our prayers and love,” Obama wrote. “But as I’ve said many times: ‘[O]ur thoughts and prayers are not enough.’ They alone won’t ‘capture the heartache and grief and anger we should feel,’ and they do ‘nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America.’ We have a responsibility to act.”
Obama said that action to be taken should be “commonsense steps to reduce gun violence that are consistent with the Second Amendment.”
The president then touted efforts he made during his administration, mostly through executive actions. He cited “dedicating more resources to ensuring those background checks are conducted on time” and “jumpstart[ing] the development of smart gun technology” as examples of his gun-related accomplishments.
He also pointed to his January 2016 executive order, which was originally sold by White House officials as a substantial change in how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives would determine who needs a license to sell firearms but was later revealed to change little about the process.
Obama said his efforts were not enough, though.
“But there’s a great deal of work left to be done,” he wrote. “Congress should pass the kinds of commonsense reforms supported by most of the American people–from investing in access to mental health care, to expanding background checks, to making it possible to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists. The actions we take won’t prevent every act of violence–but if even one life is spared, they will have been well worth it.”