Guests attend an interdenominational candlelight vigil at the Illinois… (Scott Olson / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON – President Obamasays the nation needs to do some “soul-searching” on how to reduce violence, but the White Houseis sending no signals that he will launch a push for new gun-control measures.
As news sinks in of yet another mass shooting, this one at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, White House aides point out that, despite Obama’s support for a new assault weapons ban, Congress has failed to enact that or any other gun control measure during his term.
Obama said Monday that such “terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence.”
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But he and his staff stop far short of suggesting any new legislation, saying only that the president wants to convene leaders to talk about ways to head off gun violence.
The president’s team can read poll numbers as well as they can read Congress, and they know there isn’t widespread support for new gun-control measures. In a tight reelection race as Obama now faces, such a legislative campaign could be damaging.
That is small comfort to two Obama supporters who have set up camp this week outside the White House, where they are silently asking their president to change his response to the shootings in Arizona, Colorado and Wisconsin.
Barbara Elsas says she understands the political risk.
“He’s worried about not getting reelected,” said Elsas, who runs a preschool in the nation’s capital. “He’s worried about independents. I understand that. I’m worried too.”
But Obama has the ability to influence the way Americans think about the issue, she said, and the moment is ripe right now.
“People will listen to him,” said Linda Finkel-Talvadkar, a former high school principal from Washington. “He should be talking about it. He should be on his bully pulpit.”