Obama Makes No Mention Of Guns In State Of The Union Address


WASHINGTON -- One word was noticeably missing from President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday: guns.

In a sign that the sun has set on Obama's gun control agenda, the president's prepared remarks contained no mention of the issue. Two years after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the absence of guns from Obama's speech marked a departure from previous years, in which the president urged Congress to pass legislation aimed at reducing gun violence in America.

Obama made a thinly veiled reference to mass shootings while discussing national tragedies that have brought Americans together.

"I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia," he said.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of Obama's 2013 State of the Union address was his impassioned plea to lawmakers to at least hold a vote for the sake of the children at Sandy Hook and other victims of gun violence, such as former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head at a 2011 constituent meeting in Tucson. Obama's remarks on guns were significantly shorter last year, following a failed Senate vote to expand background checks. Nonetheless, the president pledged in that speech to take steps to curtail gun violence "with or without Congress."

Obama has continued to use other forums to push for a change in how America perceives the issue of gun control, while chastising lawmakers for bowing to the National Rifle Association and other special interest groups. He also took limited executive action last year to strengthen the federal background checks system. But his failure to even mention the word "guns" in his most high-profile speech of the year is an acknowledgement that gun control is currently dead at the federal level, particularly under a GOP-controlled Congress.

A December report found that nearly 100 school shootings have occurred since Sandy Hook, resulting in at least 45 deaths and 78 non-fatal gunshot injuries. The anti-gun violence coalition has refused to back down from its efforts to take on the gun lobby, but given the reluctance among congressional lawmakers to revisit stricter gun laws, gun control groups have shifted their focus. Advocates are increasingly pursuing progress outside of Washington, following some state-level victories on instituting background checks and preventing domestic abusers from purchasing firearms.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut who has been a leading advocate for stricter gun laws after Newtown, said Obama was being "realistic" about the prospects of gun control in the new Congress.

"This Congress unfortunately, tragically, unforgivably may well continue to do nothing," Blumenthal said in an interview with HuffPost Live after the speech. "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."

"Gun violence affects everyone and Congress is aiding and abetting by failing to take stronger action," he added. "I think the president had a broader vision and he was reaching for a vision of expanding economic opportunity and investing in America rather than dwelling on any single issue."

This story has been updated.

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