But even if one wants to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, his comments highlight the problem with his approach to politics. He would rather go for everything he wants and get nothing — but keep the political issue — than make progress on common ground.
Virtually none of the proposals on his gun-control wish list — more-comprehensive federal background checks, closing the gun show “loophole,” etc. — would help bring down the homicide rate. It’s not just a tautology to note that most gun crimes are committed by criminals — with guns obtained illegally. Enforcing existing laws or restoring stop-and-frisk policies in big cities would save more lives than shuttering gun shows.
Nor would his proposals have prevented the deaths at Umpqua Community College. Typically, mass killers don’t buy guns at gun shows. And a 2013 CNN analysis found that a comprehensive background-check system wouldn’t have prevented any of the most heinous mass shootings in recent years, save one: The Virginia Tech shooter should have failed a background test but didn’t. That murderer — like the Tucson, Sandy Hook and, most likely, Umpqua killers — had serious mental health problems.
After the Sandy Hook slaughter, there was a bipartisan consensus that more needed to be done on the mental-health side. But Obama, fresh off reelection, rejected a piecemeal approach, largely preferring to go for a “comprehensive” solution. He ended up with nothing.