President Obama spoke about gun violence on Thursday. Again. And an anxious nation almost certainly tuned him out. Again.
Like any president heading into his eighth year, Obama has had a tough time staying in command of the bully pulpit. That has been true for every modern lame duck in peacetime. But it is particularly pronounced for this president on this topic. For on no subject has the country been more resistant to the president’s pleadings than on guns.
Even with the real specter that the fatal shootings on Wednesday in San Bernardino are closer to terrorism than to the type of mass shooting normally seen, this latest outbreak of gun violence followed a now-familiar routine at the White House. As he always does, the president told reporters in the Oval Office he sends his “thoughts and prayers” to victims’ families. And, as he has in all the most recent shootings, he expressed his exasperation that any American could amass such a deadly arsenal. But, this time—the 18th time he has spoken out on a mass shooting in his 83 months in office—he seemed drained of passion, almost numbed by the death toll.
The 14 fatalities in San Bernardino brings the overall toll for his presidency to 186 killed and another 189 wounded in 21 separate mass shootings since he took the oath of office in 2009, according to a National Journal accounting of the incidents. The first attack came in Binghamton, New York on his 82nd day as president. Thirteen were killed then, and four wounded. On that day, in what almost seems quaint now, he said he was “shocked and deeply saddened about the act of senseless violence....” He has not been “shocked” since, as he has been forced to absorb one horrific act after another.