I think so many Americans sometimes feel as if there’s nothing we can do about that. We are fortunate to have an extraordinary combination of law enforcement and intelligence and military at work every single day to keep us safe, but we can’t just leave it to our professionals to deal with these kinds of horrible killings. We all have a part to play. As the investigation moves forward, it's important for all of us, including our legislatures, to see what we can do to make sure that when an individual decides to do someone harm, we make it a little harder for them to do it.
Yes, Obama absolutely nods to the role "our legislatures" have to play in the process of making it harder for people who want to do harm with guns to have that chance. But it's a side note to his main appeal to our common humanity: "We can’t just leave it to our professionals to deal with these kinds of horrible killings. ...We all have a part to play."
That's very different than the approach Obama adopted following the murders of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012. He made quite clear at that moment that he would do everything he could to bring about legislative action to make sure that what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School could never happen again.
The second big difference in Obama on Thursday was the way he said what he said. In the wake of recent mass shootings, Obama has been forceful and, according to his critics, angry. He has not minced words about the political calculations that play a part in the failure to pass more gun control measures — and who he blames for them.
The Obama who spoke Thursday seemed worn down from the seemingly relentless repetition of mass shooting, presidential statements and then, well, nothing. He was introspective, not angry. Sorrowful, not standoffish. "We need to search ourselves as a society to make sure we take the basic steps that would make it harder, not impossible, but harder for individuals to get access to weapons," Obama said at the close of his remarks.
Why the differences in words and tone? Only Obama knows for sure. My guess is that as a politician, he understands the tremendous difficulties involved in passing any sort of gun control legislation through the current Congress. (Obama's disappointment and frustration following the failure of the gun control package he put forward post-Newtown was both palpable and lingering.)
And that Obama the person feels, like a lot of us, just plain world-weary about the awfulness that we do to one another. It's easy to forget, but presidents are people too, and no one could weather the last few weeks — starting with the Paris attacks and going forward — without feeling a bit worse for wear.