Obama Talks Earnestly of Simple Laws that Could Have Prevented Oregon Shooting, Names None

How can we know simple gun safety laws would help when we know nothing about circumstances of how the killer got the gun?


President Obama gave an impassioned and impressively gravitas-filled reaction speech to the horrible murders today in Oregon. You can watch it here.


What's important in regards to the politics of Obama's speech right now is that neither you nor I nor Obama knows anything about what sort of weapon was used and how it was obtained or the shooter's background. I don't even know his name as I type. [UPDATE: Seconds after posting, killer being identified as Chris Harper Mercer]

Thus, Obama is undoubtedly overreaching beyond the facts when he speaks over and over about how apparently easy and simple gun-safety laws would have prevented this, or future tragedies like this.

He doesn't, even in this very long speech, get down to a single specific or even a hint of a specific about exactly what new laws he wants that would have prevented this from happening. Maybe because he was politically savvy enough to realize that whenever we do know, someone could point out that, well, that law you suggest wouldn't have actually stopped this. 

I don't know what law could have stopped this from happening, and thus cannot argue in good faith that none could. But neither does Obama know, yet he felt it appropriate to take to the bully pulpit and play on our national grief with vague talk about laws that could change this, when he has no idea if it's true.

He never mentioned anything about the Second Amendment or the fact that one of the problems with restricting access to guns in a manner other countries do is that we have that Amendment. Guns are a legally special item in the United States, for good reasons. Discussing them as if they were any other random safety issue misses the key point in why guns are such a politically contentious issue.

He spells out how many guns there are in this country, and that is an important part of the issue. Because you can't make those guns disappear. By making such a vague speech, refusing to acknowledge the Second Amendment exists, and making it clear that in some senses he thinks the problem is the sheer fact that there are so many guns, he certainly gives reason for Second Amendment advocates to mistrust his intentions.

Obama carefully included self-defense as one of those legitimate reasons law abiding citizens might have a gun.

But the sad fact is that one can or might be a perfectly law abiding gun owner, until the moment you use it to murder someone for no reason. That is, laws that would not bedevil "law abiding gun owners" in most cases won't bedevil even evil shooters.

Obama acts as if the question of how to stop things like this from happening is easy. It's not, which is why this speech contained so few specifics.

Expressing grief and emotion can be appropriate for a politician. But the ability of a given particular new law to prevent tragedies is a very fact-specific thing, which is why the time to begin politicizing any particular tragedy like this is after one knows what circumstances about it could be affected by law.

And as Obama implicitly admitted by not naming any specific law, we don't know that yet.

Some details on the specifics of enforcement of Oregon's new, "tougher" background check laws. Again, we have no idea right now how background laws did or might have impacted this horrible crime.