Obama issues urgent, emotional address on gun control measures

The president got teary when reflecting on the high number of lives lost of mass shootings over the course of his presidency, and critics and supporters alike responded online.

During a gun control speech today, President Barack Obama was moved to tears.

Obama—who is often criticized for his cool, even aloof, demeanor—spoke with great empathy for Mark Barden and others who have been affected by gun violence. Barden, who lost a son in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, also spoke at today’s address.

Of the victims’ families, Obama said:

That’s why we’re here today. Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one. To prove that the vast majority of Americans, even if our voices aren’t always the loudest or most extreme, care enough about a little boy like Daniel to come together and take commonsense steps to save lives and protect more of our children.

Emotional, yes, but the general urgency behind Obama’s words is worth noting.

Obama called out the apathy he sees in Congress when it comes to gun control, and he upbraided those on Capitol Hill by saying they were not aligned with the mindset of the “majority of Americans.”

Congress still needs to act. The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does. Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures, we can reduce gun violence a whole lot. But we also can’t wait. Until we have the Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives.

ABC News published an overview of polls looking at gun control efforts and the role of mental health issues in the national rash of gun violence.

Tuesday’s speech did have a direct goal: reaching a national audience in announcing The White House’s executive gun control orders. Mashable outlined the orders in the following graphic:

Obama also spoke directly to tech-minded audiences with comparisons that suggested implanting safety measures for guns that we already see working in our daily lives.

“If we have the technology to unlock your phone without the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same for our guns?” Obama said Tuesday. “If a child can’t open up a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can’t pull the trigger on a gun.”

The president’s speech (and pre-conference messages) were hit with immediate backlash from GOP presidential candidates.

“President Obama is talking about this week issuing yet another executive order trying to go after our right to keep and bear arms,” Sen. Ted Cruz said to a Washington Post reporter on Monday.

“I will fight as hard as I can against any effort by this president, or by any liberal that wants to take away people’s rights that are embedded in the Bill of Rights, embedded in our Constitution,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said, The Los Angeles Times reported. Bush said Obama “didn’t have the legal authority to issue executive actions on gun control.”

Cruz and Bush also shared their criticisms on Twitter, joined by other GOP hopefuls Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Rand Paul. Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley tweeted their support following Obama’s address.

The president responded caustically to critics who accused him of seeking to illegally take guns away from Americans, with perhaps with the intent to lighten the mood after an emotion-filled speech.

“I taught constitutional law; I know a little about this,” Obama said. “I get it. But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.”

The president then asked the public the following:

How did we get here? How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?

Reactions to Obama’s remarks were mixed. People turned to Twitter during and after Obama’s address, and both criticism and support have been flooding the social media platform under the top U.S. trend, #StopGunViolence.

Many people said the president’s plan impedes freedoms, and several scoffed at his tears:

Others applauded the president’s actions, and many said the remarks moved them. Several said that Obama’s tears were a “welcome sign of humanity”:

2016 presidential candidates and citizens were not the only active online voices regarding Tuesday’s remarks. In the hours leading up to Obama’s address, the @POTUS Twitter account was filled with messages outlining both his plan and the reasons for it:

Throughout his address, the @WhiteHouse Twitter account live-tweeted quotes and statistics:

The Facebook page and Tumblr account for the White House mirrored the organization’s Twitter profile, and staff announced an hourlong live town hall, which will CNN will air this Thursday:

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What do you think of the president’s remarks, Ragan readers? Were his emotions and use of strong words powerful, or did he fall short of persuading gun enthusiasts and others with his rhetoric?

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