Manner of Speaking

Barack Obama’s Speech on Gun Control

President Barack Obama began the final year of his presidency with a speech on gun control. In it, he discussed a number of measures that he proposes to take by Executive Order to reduce gun violence in the United States.

It was a solid speech on many levels. Obama usually speaks with a teleprompter but as far as I can tell from the video, he did not use one in this case. Yes, he had his notes, but he spoke freely and even improvised from time to time. The result was very human and very powerful.

Whether you agree or disagree with Obama, let’s take a look at some of the things that he did well in his speech. It is below in its entirety. At 36 minutes, it is not short, but it is worth watching in full.

In the interests of time and space, I have not examined every aspect of Obama’s speech. Nevertheless, I set out below several reasons why I liked it.

Asyndeton: “Fort Hood. Binghamton. Aurora. Oak Creek. Newtown. The Navy Yard. Santa Barbara. Charleston. San Bernardino. Too many.” (1:20)

Aporia: “How did we get here? How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?” (15:00)

Comparison: “We maybe can’t save everybody, but we could save some. Just as we don’t prevent all traffic accidents but we take steps to try to reduce traffic accidents.” (16:40)

Diacope: “The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage but they cannot hold America hostage.” (20:00)

Anaphora: “So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies. All of us need to stand up and protect its citizens. All of us need to demand governors and legislatures and businesses do their part to make our communities safer.” (30:34)

Antimetabole: “The reason Congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections. And if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws, they’ll change course, I promise you.” (32:05)

Embed from Getty Images

“I reject that thinking.” (15:45)

“And for those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts. Put your money where your mouth is.” (25:45)

“If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?” (26:45)

“They had rights too.” (29:00)

“Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns — 30,000. Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Accidents.” (4:27)

He also uses statistics to draw a nice comparison between the decline in gun deaths in Connecticut and the rise of gun deaths in Missouri. (17:30 to 18:05)

“That’s a long distance call.” (3:00)

“And you know what? Research, science, those are good things, they work.” (18:40)

“That’s why we made sure that the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare …”. (25:47)

“If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet — which happens to me often the older I get …”. (27:00)

Embed from Getty Images

I don’t know how successful Obama will be with his initiatives, given the potential opposition that he faces from Congress and others. Indeed, as I write this post, the sniping has already started and it is fierce.

But I am glad to see him continue the fight for saner gun control laws in the United States. I am not American but I like Americans, I have many American friends and relatives, and I have traveled a fair bit in the U.S. I find it incredible that this issue continues to plague that country. I wish Obama success.