Debate Club

State of the Union Was an Appeal for Gun Control Votes, Not Laws

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"Now, if you want to vote no, that's your choice," said President Obama last night. This logical qualification was an admission that the legislative fight over new federal gun control regulations has already been lost.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

The president does not have the votes to pass his gun control proposals and he knows it. He understands that the Republican House is waiting on the Democratic Senate to act. He understands that the Democrats in the Senate are split between moderates from progun states and liberals from both coasts. And he knows that the Republicans in the Senate aren't going to come to his rescue. Simply put, there are no arms to twist and there are no deals to cut because there is no policy consensus. With the exception of expanded background checks, substantive gun control measures are not likely to be enacted now or at any time during the president's term.

That's why Obama's appeals were aimed at having votes. Votes, not laws.

As seemingly minimal a request as this was, Obama went out on a limb. He was asking his fellow Democrats in the Senate to risk their 2014 electoral prospects for his historical legacy. It's one thing to try and fail; it's another to not seemingly have tried at all.

[Photos: President Obama's 2013 State of the Union Address]

No longer a political novice, Obama pulled out all of the emotional stops in his speech. Still, as a former member of the Senate, he should know that change moves more slowly in that chamber than in any other part of the federal government. However heartfelt his sentiments and passionate his pleas, the numbers—60 senators to get legislation to a vote and 20 Democratic seats up in 2014—don't work in his favor.

He knows. He understands. Rhetoric was all he had left.

Lara Brown

About Lara Brown Author of 'Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants'

gun control and gun rights
State of the Union
Obama, Barack

Other Arguments

57 Pts
Obama's Speech Showed Concessions on Gun Control

No – Obama's Speech Showed Concessions on Gun Control

Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College

-49 Pts
Obama's Partisan Gun Language Is His Only Option

Yes – Obama's Partisan Gun Language Is His Only Option

Brandon Rottinghaus Associate Professor of Political Science

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