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Obama fears U.S. growing numb to gun violence

Updated: October 24, 2013 6:34AM



WASHINGTON — The Navy Yard massacre and the latest shootings in Chicago are sparking new rounds of outrage, but let’s face it, the volume could be turned up. President Barack Obama on Sunday said he fears where we are heading: resigned to accepting gun violence with a collective shrug because it happens so often now it is the “new normal.”

“As president, I have now grieved with five American communities ripped apart by mass violence. Fort Hood. Tucson. Aurora. Sandy Hook. And now, the Washington Navy Yard,” Obama said at The Marine Barracks memorial here for the 13 who died last Monday including the shooter, a mentally troubled government contractor.

“And these mass shootings occur against a backdrop of daily tragedies, as an epidemic of gun violence tears apart communities across America — from the streets of Chicago to neighborhoods not far from here,” the president said.

Obama’s adopted hometown rated the mention because 13 people were injured in Thursday shootings at the Cornell Square Park in the Back of the Yards community on the South Side of Chicago.

On Saturday night, Obama was more explicit, in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, where he urged a revived drive to curb gun violence. “Just two days ago, in my hometown of Chicago, 13 people were shot during a pickup basketball game, including a 3-year-old girl,” Obama said. (Actually, the toddler was a boy.)

Obama is parked at a difficult intersection. He launched a campaign earlier this year to get Congress to pass modest gun control measures after a gunman in Newtown, Conn., shot his way into the Sandy Hook elementary school last December and killed 20 children and six adults — plus his mother at the home they shared.

But Congress decided to do nothing — a victory for the National Rifle Association and its CEO, Wayne LaPierre.

The Navy Yard tragedy, shootings in Chicago and other cities — Obama lamented that we may be getting numb to all this.

“It ought to be a shock to us all as a nation and as a people. It ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation. That’s what happened in other countries when they experienced similar tragedies,” citing the United Kingdom and Australia.

With nothing changing, Obama said “sometimes I fear there’s a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal.

“We can’t accept this. As Americans bound in grief and love, we must insist here today there is nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work. There is nothing normal about our children being gunned down in their classrooms. There is nothing normal about children dying in our streets from stray bullets.”

What is different from the U.S. and other advanced nations is that in the U.S., Obama noted, “it’s easy” for people to get their hands on a gun. And the anti-gun control faction have killed even modest curbs — even ones with no Second Amendment implications.

Obama admitted Sunday his failure to change Washington when it comes to guns.

“By now, though, it should be clear that the change we need will not come from Washington, even when tragedy strikes Washington. Change will come the only way it ever has come, and that’s from the American people,” Obama said.

LaPierre guested on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday and underscored his familiar refrain: We don’t use all the gun laws we have.

Chicago “doesn’t even enforce the federal gun laws,” LaPierre said, an overstatement, but a point to be made nonetheless. Zach Fardon will be confirmed by the Senate in the coming days as the new U.S. attorney in Chicago and is expected to crack down on gun crimes.

But not trying to do more as these tragedies keep happening: That should never be the “new normal.”

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet



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