Monday 24 October 2016

Despondent Obama admits 'politics' of gun lobby mean this won't be last massacre

Peter Foster

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

US President Barack Obama. Photo: Reuters
US President Barack Obama. Photo: Reuters

As America awoke to the news of yet another mass shooting, on the newscasts and social media feeds up went the familiar cry: "When will it end?"

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Shortly before lunch, President Barack Obama provided the answer, and he did not offer any false hopes that the mass-killings that now mar American life with almost annual regularity will be stopped any time soon. "Once again," said a visibly despondent Mr Obama, "innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun."

Two years ago, after the Sandy Hook school shootings that wiped out an entire class of primary school children in Connecticut, Mr Obama's voice had been edged with anger and a determination that this would finally be the moment when America said "enough".

But America didn't - the gun lobby succeeded in quashing any attempt at even reasonable gun law reform. As a result, this time Mr Obama could not even pretend that there was any prospect of change in the forseeable future.

"It is in our power to do something about it," he said, before admitting in the next breath that change will not come any time soon. "I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now."

Given the steady stream of massacres - Texas, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora…Charleston - foreigners are often perplexed by America's continued attachment to its guns, and Mr Obama used their example to make his point.

These kinds of massacres do not happen in "other advanced countries" with anything like the frequency that they take place in America, he said, though America was no closer to confronting gun violence, no matter how many times it stared them in the face.

This was a president approaching the end of his time in office, visibly conscious of the limits both of what was achievable, but also what he has achieved.

As America's first black president, Mr Obama has always trodden a careful line on racial issues, mindful of the need to acknowledge the progress that America has made on race relations, while not shying away from confronting the prejudices that remain ingrained.

Dylann Roof's decision to shoot nine black worshippers in a church was racially motivated, and Mr Obama linked his crime right back to the Alabama church bombings in which four young girls were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963.

More than 50 years on, America has elected a black president but, as Mr Obama acknowledged - and as the recent outcry over the police shooting of black teenagers attests - it still grapples daily with the history of slavery and racism from which the nation sprang.

"Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream," said Mr Obama, borrowing the words that Martin Luther King used to eulogize those dead girls, and reinvesting them a dismaying relevance for today. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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