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Eva Hudlicka: Obama should exert power on gun control

In response to the atrocity in Connecticut, the public discourse may finally be turning to calls for gun control. Some politicians appear to be following. Sen. Diane Feinstein’s plan to introduce a bill to ban assault weapons in the next session is a good one — such a ban would take us all the way to 1994, when Congress enacted a similar law under the Clinton administration.

However, Feinstein’s proposal is not strong enough, and her planned action would not be fast enough. The Newtown tragedy calls for more immediate action, and it calls for true leadership from President Obama. Shedding tears, “love and prayers” and flying flags at half-staff will not stop the next assault weapon massacre. The president has significant legal powers he can exercise via executive orders.

Now is the time to use this power to issue an executive order to immediately stop the sale of assault weapons and related ammunition. If he can issue executive orders to drone-bomb people halfway around the world, surely he can exercise these same powers to help protect children at home.

In fact, the president should go much further than that. He should declare a major initiative to address the violence that is endemic in America. This would entail not only additional gun control measures, including the elimination of assault weapon sales, but would address the glorification of violence in the media and the entertainment industry.

The president didn’t have the courage to address difficult issues during the campaign, for realpolitik reasons or otherwise. But he has now won re-election and it is his responsibility to address a major, long-standing domestic problem. It’s time to move past the platitudes and take real action to stop gun violence in America. It’s time to stand up to the National Rifle Association and the gun rights lobby, which contributed $3 million to political candidates during the last election and spent $5.5 million in lobbying.

It’s time to present a sane interpretation of the Second Amendment. In taking on this challenge, the president will have the majority of Americans behind him. Over 80 percent of Americans support limits on assault weapons, and an even greater majority support background checks on private gun sales.

Most Americans also oppose the NRA’s latest effort — reciprocity for concealed weapons, the practice of having states recognize gun licenses and permits issued elsewhere. This support also includes a majority of police chiefs across the country. In fact, the majority of responsible gun owners support stricter gun control.

Widespread public support exists. The question: Does the president have the courage to face the NRA-funded bullies in Congress, the gun manufacturers’ lobby and its front organization, the NRA and a small minority of irresponsible Americans and take meaningful action to try and prevent the next mass shooting?

Eva Hudlicka is a researcher in affective science and a psychotherapist. She lives in Leverett.

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