In his next to last State of the Union Speech delivered Tuesday night, President Obama delivered messages on climate change, Cuba and the economy, but largely avoided talking about guns.
This lack of emphasis on a key Democratic Party issue is perhaps telling of a lame-duck chief executive facing the largest GOP majority Congress since the Truman-era. In past years the President has made gun control and the call for expanded background checks a key topic of the address, reaching its high water mark in the 2013 speech to Congress with an emotionally-charged plea following the Sandy Hook shootings of just two months prior that brought quick rebuttal from the National Rifle Association.
In the official 6,860-word transcript of the lasted State of the Union address posted on the White House website, the words “gun,” “firearm,” and “violence” typically found in these annual speeches do not appear. Neither does “assault weapon,” “background check,” or “shooting.”
The closest the President came to addressing gun violence was towards the end of the speech when, in remarks referencing his travels over the past six years, he simply said, “I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia.”
Although vocal gun control advocate Richard Martinez, whose son Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez was killed during the shooting in Isla Vista, California, last year, was invited to attend the address as a guest of U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calf, the President did not acknowledge him during the speech.
Likewise, a 128-slide graphic presentation released by the White House to accompany the speech contains charts and images detailing with everything from the number of airstrikes conducted against ISIS to the amount of wind power generated by the U.S. without referencing gun politics.
In a monolog on crime, the President cited that, “We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. And surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.”
Among those taking note of the President’s departure from partisan politics on guns was a member of his own party, Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who told the Huffington Post that successful gun control legislation may not be in the cards for the current session.
“This Congress unfortunately, tragically, unforgivably may well continue to do nothing,” Blumenthal said after the President’s address. “And that’s a missed opportunity to save lives of tens of thousands of people who will be victims of gun violence — innocent children, people all across the country on campuses, in malls and individually on the streets of our cities.”