Under pressure from opponents of his gun control agenda, President Barack Obama recently released a photo of himself skeet shooting at Camp David to prove his assertion in an interview with The New Republic that he goes “skeet shooting all the time.”
The sincere controversy over this skeet shooting photo is a clear indicator the legitimate debate over effective gun control legislation is beginning to lose focus. For the first time in years, the possibility exists to make progress toward curbing the gun violence epidemic here in the United States. We cannot let the gun control debate shift toward subjects as trivial as whether or not photos of the president shooting a gun exist.
First, the President of the United States should not have tried to appeal to gun owners by saying he shoots skeet “all the time.” He already has the necessary momentum to push forward with his gun control plan without needing to appeal to the most extreme members of the opposition.
Secondly, the President of the United States does not need to release a photo of himself shooting a gun in order to prove he is telling the truth. The few people who still managed to turn this political misstep into the center of the debate were not going to support any gun plan the president brought forward anyway (or any plan supported by the president, for that matter).
Lastly, releasing the photo changed few, if any, minds about the president or his plans. Have we learned nothing from a similar debate that happened nearly two years ago when the president released his long-form birth certificate? The members of the far right claimed foul then and they are going to claim foul now. More than likely, anyone who was a birther will also be a “skeeter.”
It is time we stop legitimizing the concerns of Tea Party members, birthers and skeeters by giving genuine acknowledgement to their frivolous demands. These are the extreme members of the Republican Party who have been holding this country hostage from having a prosperous debate and an effective government. The ideas of these members of the far right are, and always have been, baseless, irrational and, in some cases, completely fabricated.
The GOP itself is dying because it has given these outrageous ideas the center stage of its platform for the past two years, and this has made them stagnant. By refusing to give such ideas a legitimate voice in serious debates, they will fade out, the GOP can regain some electoral ground and government policies will be able to evolve into a more intelligent form.
The current gun control debate in the United States has the potential to create real and lasting change in this country. No one should expect sweeping legislation ending all gun violence in the country. However, people should expect policies aiming to curb gun violence over the next several decades. It is not only the actions that must be changed but the entire perspective of gun culture in this country.
The focus on a legitimate and sincere gun control debate must be maintained. Lawmakers cannot let themselves become distracted from the real issues of guns in this country – the momentum in this debate is clearly in the favor of change. Americans are finally realizing guns kill people, and it is only by lessening guns’ capabilities for mass mortality and diminishing their cultural attractiveness gun violence will begin to diminish.
Jared Mehre (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sophomore majoring in political science, sociology and legal studies.