President Obama made headlines on Monday when he matter-of-factly said that racism hasn’t been eliminated in the U.S. “We’re not cured of it,” he said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.”
Not surprisingly, many of the news stories spawned by the hour-long interview he recorded with comedian Marc Maron for his popular podcast WTF, focused on the fact that Obama had chosen to pronounce the racial epithet rather than use a sanitized variant. But those stories tended to miss one of the more depressing points raised in the interview.
Even in the wake of the murder of nine innocents in an historically black church in Charleston, SC last week, President Obama has given up on the possibility of any sort of gun control legislation getting through Congress. The National Rifle Association’s control over Congress when it comes to gun control issues, he said, is just too strong.
Speaking of the reaction to the Charleston shootings, he said, “It’s not enough just to feel bad. There are actions that could be taken to make events like this less likely. One of those actions we could take would be to enhance some basic, common sense gun safety laws that, by the way, the majority of gun owners support. This is unique to our country. There is no other advanced nation on earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal. And to some degree that’s what’s happened in this country. It’s become something we expect.”
However, he said, he’s not hopeful that any significant action will be taken while he is in office.
“Unfortunately, the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong,” he said. “I don’t foresee any legislative action being taken in this Congress, and I don’t foresee any real action being taken until the American public feels a sufficient sense of urgency and they say to themselves, ‘This is not normal. This is something that we can change and we’re going to change it.’”
Obama showed his frustration with Congress, but said that in many policy areas, he has been able to effect change through rulemakings and other executive actions -- even when Republicans in Congress have refused to work with him. Gun control, he said, has been the exception.
Referring to the horrific murder of 26 people, including 20 small children in a Connecticut school in 2012, he said, “I will tell you, right after Sandy Hook – Newtown – when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down and Congress literally does nothing? Yeah. That’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted. I was pretty disgusted.”
While the president did not attack gun manufacturers directly, he did point out the irony that they tend to do very well financially in the wake of mass shootings.
“Right after Newtown, gun sales shot up, ammunition shot up, and each time these events occur; ironically, gun manufacturers make out like bandits, partly because of this fear that’s churned up that the federal government and the black helicopters are coming to get your guns.”
While he acknowledged that gun ownership, as well and hunting and shooting sports is an ingrained part of American culture that “is really important to a lot of people,” he also said that the reality of gun violence in the U.S. is something the country has failed to confront.
“It’s not something that we have ever fully come to terms with,” he said.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times