Kids at centre stage in gun debate

2013-01-17 13:55

Washington – "Dear President Obama," began a letter from 8-year-old Grant Fritz, with the shaky printing - missed words, spelling errors - of someone just learning how to put thoughts down on paper.

"I think there should be some changes in the law with guns," Fritz said in the 17 December letter he sent to the president days after the Newtown school shootings.

Invited to the White House on Wednesday, Fritz and three other children in their Sunday best sat on stage as Obama read out parts of their letters to illustrate why he wants to tighten gun laws.

The children's' presence at Obama's announcement aimed to keep kids at the heart of the often emotional battle over gun control, which reignited with the murder of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, last month.

The president's own young daughters were dragged into the fray on Tuesday when the National Rifle Association (NRA) put out an ad accusing Obama of hypocrisy by giving the girls armed Secret Service protection.

That broke a long-held taboo against using a president's children in political attacks and outraged the White House, which described the ad as "repugnant".

With the letter-writing children looking on, Obama announced wide-ranging plans for gun control, including bringing an assault weapon ban to Congress.

He challenged Americans to ask their lawmakers to support his plan despite objections from groups who believe the measures will infringe on gun ownership rights.

"Ask them what's more important: Doing whatever it takes to get a 'A' grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade?" Obama said to applause from a crowd of interest groups, Democratic lawmakers and law enforcement officials who agree with his plan.

Flood of letters

Anger and pain over the 14 December Newtown shooting has been a common topic in the stacks of letters from Americans that flood into the White House. Obama says he reads 10 letters a day from the public.

Julia Stokes, 11, wrote that she "may not [be] that into politics but my opinion is that it should be very hard for people to buy guns”.

"I know that laws have to be passed by congress but I beg you to try very hard to make guns not allowed," wrote Julia, who dotted her 'i' with a heart.

Hinna Zeejah, 8, whose patent-leather Mary Jane shoes didn't reach the floor as she sat on the White House stage, wrote, "I feel terrible for the parents who lost their children."

In the front row of the event sat Chris and Lynn McDonald, whose 7-year-old daughter, Grace, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

"I'm told she loved pink. She loved the beach. She dreamed of becoming a painter," Obama said. Her parents looked at each other and smiled as the president spoke of how one of Grace's paintings now hangs in his private study.

The horror of the Newtown school shooting made a significant difference in the debate over gun violence, said Annette Nance-Holt, who lost her only child, Blair, in a shooting on a city bus, when he was coming home from school in 2007.

"In Chicago, we've been waiting for a long time. I don't just represent Blair - that was my baby - but there are so many other babies in the city of Chicago that have been gunned down innocently," Nance-Holt told reporters, wearing a picture of her son on her lapel.

"Now we have a groundswell of movement. We have 20 babies, and people are looking at this totally different."

Using kids as props

Obama was criticised by conservative pundits and bloggers as using children as political "props”.

"I don't even know what to say about the White House publishing letters from children for political purposes. It's just so disgusting," tweeted Michelle Clouthier, a libertarian blogger.

In its ad, the NRA accused Obama of being "just another elitist hypocrite" for allowing armed Secret Service protection for his daughters but turning down the lobby group's proposal after the Newtown shooting to put armed guards in all schools.

That drew fire from White House spokesperson Jay Carney.

"Most Americans agree that a president's children should not be used as pawns in a political fight. But to go so far as to make the safety of the president's children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly," Carney said.

  • eyesears.handsfeet - 2013-01-17 14:26

    This is the absolute pits. I agree, using kids in order to futher your own agenda is a taboo in my eyes. You've signed your own "sick" warrant. Why told you rather tell the children the truth and helping thme right about what guns really are, just another object and who and what the real calprits are. obama - Another one - brains for peanuts.

  • eyesears.handsfeet - 2013-01-17 14:27

    peanuts for brains

  • Flippncool - 2013-01-17 14:31

    Naturally kids who can barely write have been told what to say and been highly influenced by their parents. This churns my stomach - the lengths people will go to manipulate their viewpoint - by going so far as to use and abuse children.

      Flippncool - 2013-01-17 15:06

      Hey thumb-downers - care to explain please? I'm curious as to why you think what I'm saying is incorrect.

      wollie.verstege - 2013-01-17 16:28

      Thought the exact same thing. Question: If there was an armed security guard in that school who shot dead the perpetrator before he could kill all those kids, what would people have said then?

  • Hamrammr - 2013-01-17 14:31

    Does a little person, who is "just learning how to put thoughts down on paper", possess the intellectual capacity to realise what a gun free society really constitute? Thoughts are being put into the kid's heads by adults, usually naïve and liberal teachers, which are then penned down by these poor children and sent to the likes of Obama. It is thoughts like these that will result in all of us being controlled by nanny states like Britain. FFS we are adults and can reason for ourselves, it is not necessary to resort to childish sentimental debate when making important decisions on topics such as gun control. A armed society is a free and safe society.

  • compos.mentis.58 - 2013-01-17 14:32

    Laughs... just another PR exercise using a kid to write the letter. Damn, if this is not going to turn into another movie...

  • willa.prinsloo - 2013-01-17 14:47

    A nation at war with itself, and getting sicker by the day.

      gary.landman - 2013-01-17 16:30

      I am not sure if an person of your limited horizons and living in a nation such as RSA is really qualified to make such a comment. Just as much as you have a right to be mad at Americans for commenting on your society, you have no right to comment on theirs. I am not expecting an apology....... it would be futile to do so.

  • raymond.mcnelly - 2013-01-17 23:49

    How Obama's true colours shines through. I've posting for years that Obama's a fraud and a deceitful liar!

  • kafantaris2 - 2013-01-18 06:43

    Here is an excerpt from UNFORGIVEN - A TRANSCRIPT, by David Peoples: BOB and BEAUCHAMP get off the train and climb aborad a carriage bound for Big Whiskey BOB Come On! BOB Ah, it's the climate that does it. That and the infernal distances. BEAUCHAMP Does what? BOB Induces people to shoot persons in high places. BEAUCHAMP Yeah, right (They pass a sign reading) NO FIRE ARMS IN BIG WHISKEY Ordiance h DEPOSIT PISTOLS & RIFELES AT COUNTY OFFICE BOB You know, it's a savage country really. That's the second one they've shot in twenty years. It's uncivilized shooting persons of substance. (BOB waves at the women as he passes by and then, passing a group of Chinamen, makes a pistol with his hand and mimes shooting at them...) BOB (whispering) pop! pop! pop! EXT DAY -- BIG WHISKEY DEPUTY (Andy) watches coach pull up with BOB and BEAUCHAMP inside it. As they disembark he sees BOB's pistol beneath his jacket. He walks toward them ANDY Pardon me, Gentlemen, the local ordinance requires you to surrender all side arms to the proper authority for the duration of your visit. BOB Proper authority? Well, I can assure you, young man, that neither my companion nor I carry firearms on our person. We rely upon the good will of our fellow man and the forbearance of reptiles. INT DAY -- SHERIFF'S OFFICE (FATTY, ANDY, and CHARLIE are loading their weapons) ANDY Unarmed My ass.

  • dane.herbst.5 - 2013-01-19 07:59

    this is such bull!!! this is just main stream media progaganda!!! no child is gonna ahve his "letter" read by the president, but when obama wants to pass a law all of a sudden apparently it now becomes relevant as to what a child supposedly wants, the US make me sick, obama wants to pass gun laws yet has continued for the last 2 year to bomb and have drones shoot down ppl and children in pakistan and everyone else in the world turns a blind eyes because its supposidly right because obama said so or does so,once he has americans guys there is no turning back, he will create a military state and him and his banker friends will be exceptions to all the rules, remember who took away there citizens guns, hitler, stalin etc etc, look what happened there, you ppl forget quickly, history repeats itself and this time is americas turn

  • dane.herbst.5 - 2013-01-19 08:01

    dammit american politicians make me sick!!!! bunch of low life scum!!!

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