President Obama expressed his support for the assault weapons ban, a motion led by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), on Dec. 18. The following day, Obama supported his statements with a press conference in which he promised to address gun control in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy. It was then that he charged Vice President Joe Biden with developing “concrete proposals no later than January.”
In the past, President Obama has frequently been accused of weak gun control policies. He responded to that criticism in his press conference by noting the need to focus more on the economic crisis and the security of the nation in his previous term. Now that re-election is no longer a concern, the U.S. economy is making significant steps toward recovery, and that the President can now focus on domestic security issues, Obama has now moved gun control to the front of the national agenda.
At the time, the tragedy of the Newtown massacre was still fresh in many Americans’ minds, but the White House Press Corps had another topic they wanted to discuss. When the floor opened for dialogue, rather than asking about potential gun legislation, the first reporter, who was soon followed by two others who echoed his question, asked about the fiscal cliff and its approaching deadline. These questions were addressed before those in attendance were directed back to the subject at hand, gun control.
Since the conference, the White House Press Corps has drawn backlash from commentators and pundits nationwide. The criticisms of these groups and individuals, while understandably addressing concerns about Newtown, were too quick to criticize and denounce wantonly the addressing of other topics of interest. They seemed to have forgotten the importance of acknowledging the fast approaching deadline for addressing the issue.
Though these questioned appeared to be rather callous given the tragedy, the reporters’ decision to purposely maneuver around the issue of gun control may have been due to the White House’s reluctance to make definite statements concerning which measures were being taken to address the fiscal cliff. Journalists are not required to ask questions that are germane to the president’s topic of discussion. They are, however, charged with seeking out answers regarding the most important news on behalf of the people. At the time, that news involved the fiscal cliff, and in hindsight, many would agree that it is was a far drier topic than the fiery debate that often surrounds gun control.