On Tuesday evening, during the most emotionally charged moment of his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama made a clear plea to the American people and to lawmakers in Congress: gun control deserves a vote.
After referencing what he referred to as “common sense reforms” – universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban – and mentioning the recent mass shooting in Newtown, Obama acknowledged the heated debate over gun control, but said “This time is different.”
“Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote,” Obama said. “Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”
Obama then proceeded to mention some of the names of the nearly 30 people who were there to support tougher gun laws, many of whom were either victims of gun-related violence or the family members of victims.
The president brought up Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl who was gunned down in a Chicago park last month. As a majorette, she along with her classmates from King College Prep participated in Obama’s second inaugural parade just a week before her tragic death.
“Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence,” said Obama. “They deserve a vote.”
“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote,” Obama continued. “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote.”
During this part of the speech, nearly everyone in the room stood and applauded, with many Democrats chanting the word “vote.” It was by far the emotional apex of the entire speech (see video below, it starts around 52:00).
Thoughts and analysis
Moving forward, Obama will look to capitalize off this momentum and he will undoubtedly continue with this pathos-based approach to gun control.
That is to say, instead of concentrating on facts – crime is down over the last two decades while concealed carry participation and gun ownership is up – and arguing from a position of logic or reason – we know for example, that the previous AWB had an insignificant effect on crime rates – President Obama will continue waving the bloody shirt to appeal to the emotions of the public and lawmakers in Congress.
The objective is simple: by supplanting the nation’s collective reason and judgment with emotion, Obama hopes to demonize the right to keep and bear certain types of firearms and gun-related accessories (high-capacity mags), thereby paving the way for tougher gun laws.
So, when it comes time for lawmakers to vote on these gun control measures, it’s a visceral vote Obama’s looking for, not one that is grounded in the truth and reason.
It’s a smart play by Obama. The question is, will it work?
What are your thoughts? Will lawmakers be overcome by emotion when it comes time to vote or will they look at the gun control bills objectively and dispassionately?