When President Obama tearfully announced his executive actions on guns at the White House recently, he was able to surround himself with victims of gun violence who support his gun-control efforts.
But at a CNN town hall meeting last week, the president came face to face with victims of gun violence who don’t agree with his efforts to limit their gun rights — and who, politely and respectfully, spoke truth to power.
Taya Kyle, widow of Navy SEAL and “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle, told the president “I think that your message of hope is something I agree with.” But she pointed out that none of the families in the room who lost loved ones would have seen their deaths prevented by the actions the president announced on guns, “so it seems like almost a false sense of hope.” Of gun owners, she said, “We’re good people, and 99.9 percent of us are never going to kill anyone” adding that she hopes she has “the right to protect myself; that I don’t end up to be one of these families.”
Obama was introduced to Kimberly Corban, a young woman who was raped when she was a college student in 2006 by a man who broke into her apartment. “As a survivor of rape, and now a mother to two small children,” she said, “it seems like being able to purchase a firearm of my choosing, and being able to carry that wherever . . . me and my family are — it seems like my basic responsibility as a parent at this point.” Corban added: “I have been unspeakably victimized once already, and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids. So why can’t your administration see that these restrictions that you’re putting to make it harder for me to own a gun, or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe?”
Both Kyle and Corban have such moral force that Obama could not simply dismiss them as “bitter” Americans who “cling to guns,” as he did on the campaign trail in 2008. But make no mistake that it was Americans like Kyle and Corban whom he was speaking about eight years ago. Now, he finally had to face them — and answer to them.
There are more victims of gun violence the president ought to meet. He could start with the family of Kate Steinle. She was gunned down in July, allegedly by an illegal immigrant with seven felony convictions. But Obama still has not met with her family members. They might have some ideas about how the president could protect Americans like Steinle — including ending the sanctuary city policies he supports that allowed her alleged murderer to be released.
Obama might also want to meet with family of Grant Ronnebeck, the 21-year-old Arizona convenience store clerk who was gunned down over a pack of cigarettes, allegedly by an illegal immigrant who had been released by the Obama administration in 2013 even though he had been convicted of felony burglary and was in the middle of deportation proceedings. Ronnebeck’s uncle, Michael, told Congress “we want Grant’s death to be a force for change and reform in the immigration policies of this great nation.” I’m sure he would be pleased to share his views with the president as well.
Indeed, Obama might want to sit down with the families of the 121 homicide victims who were killed by illegal immigrants that his administration released into our communities. In May, Obama’s director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sarah Saldana, admitted to Congress that from fiscal years 2010 to 2014, the Obama administration released “121 unique criminal aliens who had an active [deportation] case at the time of release and were subsequently charged with homicide-related offenses.” One hundred twenty-one over four years! That is one illegal immigrant released into our communities every 12 days who goes on to be charged with murder.
If Obama really cares about saving lives, instead of announcing gun-control measures that would have stopped not one of the mass shootings he cited as inspiration for his actions, the president could direct his administration to stop releasing illegal immigrants and crack down on sanctuary city policies. And he could focus on prosecuting gun violations under existing gun laws. A Syracuse University study found such prosecutions are down 42 percent on his watch compared with a decade earlier under President George W. Bush. But Obama won’t do that. Because, as he has made clear, he plans to “politicize” the gun issue.
The fact is that most Americans agree with Taya Kyle and Kimberly Corban. Since the recent spate of mass shootings, the number of Americans who see having more guns as the answer, not the problem, has grown. If Obama got out of the White House and met more of those gun-clinging Americans, including Kyle and Corban, he’d understand they’re not “bitter” — they’re right.