EDITORIAL: Obama’s gun control sounds good, but is it good enough?

Observer Editorial Board

When Columbine happened, America mourned. We were shocked. It wasn’t just one of the worst mass shootings, but also the worst school shooting in history. But then we picked ourselves up by our bootstraps, as is the American way, and moved on.

Then there was Wakefield. Then there was Virginia Tech. Then there was Fort Hood. Then there was Aurora. Each time, we mourned and moved on. The microphones were packed up, the notebooks were put away and the news vans drove off. The Wikipedia pages were updated.

Then the unthinkable happened on Dec. 14, 2012. Twenty first graders and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. After, nothing really changed. America decided gun control and mental health were fine as is.

That was, of course, until last Tuesday. During a passionate press conference (where his teary eyes received the most news coverage) President Obama laid out a plan. It’s not a 300-page document, nor is it political hot air without any substance. It’s just, sort of, common sense.

Things like closing the “gun show loophole,” by narrowing who can sell guns without a federal license should have been a no brainer. But it’s only just now getting attention.

Or, having the FBI hire more than 230 people to run background checks. Seems like a great idea, but why now?

The Department of Health and Human Services will also remove barriers to allow mental health records available to the background check system. Again, not a bad idea.

Many around the country are wondering (rightfully so) why now? Why not then? And many others on the other side of the aisle are wondering why at all.

It’s no secret that America has a love affair with guns and violence. Gun Violence Archive, a not for profit violence tracking website, reports 1,424 total gun-related incidents in 2016, with 373 deaths and 804 injuries.

As Obama himself said during his press conference, “We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency.”

And in 2013 Obama tried to curb gun violence following Sandy Hook (albeit not very hard). After congress failed to pass gun control legislation, he proposed a list of 23 actions that would tighten the background check system.

But negotiations fell through, phone calls went unanswered, lines of communication were severed, and again (as is the American way), nothing happened.

Had those actions gone into place, perhaps Christopher Sean Haper-Mercer would have had another boring Thursday in English class at Umpqua Community College, instead of killing 9 others and himself.

Perhaps Dylan Storm Roof would have cooled off, having not been able to purchase a gun, instead of killing nine people in prayer at Charleston church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

But that didn’t happen. Even now, as America moves forward with some of the most substantial gun control action in years, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough. Maybe we’ve all become numb or lost hope, or maybe we just expect more.

Had Obama stuck with his original plan three years ago, we would have a sampling size. Something that could be used to silence the critics and encourage the supporters. Something that could produce data that answers the question: Does gun control actually work?

Now we may never know. If a republican president were to come into office next, they could repeal the executive action in about a year. Even if that doesn’t happen, congress has threatened to block funding for the Justice Department to stop the order.

So we’re left asking ourselves, is this too little too late?