President Barack Obama was expected to make gun violence a central theme of his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, but he only mentioned it once.
In fact, Obama only devoted six words to the topic–a sentence fragment: “Protecting our kids from gun violence.” The First Lady did arrange for an empty chair in the gallery, to symbolize the victims of gun violence. Still, after promising last week to focus on the issue, it was an odd silence.
“Unfortunately for gun control activists President Obama only mentioned gun violence once in his speech,” noted a report by KESQ, the Palm Springs, California-area CBS News affiliate. A local gun control activist, Dori Smith, was at the State of the Union address as the guest of Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-CA). “Gun violence activists would have liked hear more from the President during the speech,” the report concluded, noting a sense of disappointment.
The president’s reluctance to devote more attention to the gun issue might suggest a retreat in the face of a public backlash. Typically, Obama’s actions on guns have been met with political mobilization among gun rights groups–and crowds at firearms dealers.
The full context of the president’s brief mention of the gun issue was as follows:
But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients.
And I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done: fixing a broken immigration system…
… protecting our kids from gun violence, equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage.
All these things — all these things still matter to hardworking families. They’re still the right thing to do, and I won’t let up until they get done. But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year. I want to focus on the next five years, the next ten years and beyond. I want to focus on our future.