What Obama Could Do, As Chief Consoler

Host Guy Raz speaks with NPR's Scott Horsley about President Obama's role as the nations consoler-in-chief and what meaningful action the president can take on the issue of gun control.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

President Obama is in Newtown, Connecticut, at this hour to offer some comfort to a nation in mourning for the victims of Friday's school shooting. Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama met privately with the families of those who were killed. And later tonight, he'll speak at an interfaith memorial service in Newtown.

NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley is with us now. And, Scott, sadly, the president has been here before.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: That's right, Guy. He's had practice in this setting - earlier this year in Aurora, Colorado, in Tucson, Arizona, and back in 2009 after the shootings in Fort Hood, Texas. Obviously, no words can erase the pain caused by these killings. But what the president probably will do is highlight the courage and the compassion of those who responded to the tragedy.

And also what he's done in the past is to call on us, the living, to be worthy of those who are lost. In Tucson, he talked about young Christina-Taylor Green, the little girl who was just beginning to learn about democracy, who'd gone to meet her congresswoman in that shopping center when she was struck down. And the president said, I want us to live up to her expectations.

RAZ: Scott, yesterday in his address, the president called for meaningful action to prevent this kind of tragedy again. What does that mean?

HORSLEY: Well, the White House has not elaborated on that. Certainly, gun control advocates are hoping to see some change in what has been sort of national paralysis on that issue. After the Tucson shooting, we know the Justice Department did look at a number of steps designed to make it more difficult for disturbed people to obtain weapons - better background checks, maybe closing the gun show loophole.

There are some lawmakers who want to go further and ban high-capacity magazines and renew the ban on assault weapons. It's hard to say if those would have made any difference in this instance. From what we know, the guns that Adam Lanza used were legally owned by his mother. But, Guy, I can't help notice that in amongst the coverage of this tragedy, there was a story out of China of a man who went to a school, armed with a knife, stabbed 22 people. No one died.

RAZ: Scott, we hear about political paralysis when it comes to gun control, and it's too much of a hot-button issue. Is there any reason to think that this shooting will change that in ways that others have not?

HORSLEY: Well, it's hard to say. The president is certainly a political realist, and that's one reason he hasn't pursued this issue very aggressively in the past. But he did sound a new note of determination when he talked about doing something meaningful in this case. And certainly, this case has shocked the sensibility of the country in a way that others haven't because so many of the victims were so young.

What's more, of course, Mr. Obama has just won a decisive re-election. The gun lobby holds no threat for him anymore. Of course, that's not true for many of the lawmakers whose help he might need.

RAZ: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.