President Obama getting help from faith leaders against gun lobby

President Barack Obama hugs an unidentified man in the East Room of the White House in Washington Jan. 5 after announcing steps the administration is taking to reduce gun violence. (CNS/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

"The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can't hold America hostage," President Barack Obama said in his national address from the White House Jan. 5. That encapsulates the point of our latest print editorial, available online here.

Obama is in a tough spot, fighting hard to stay relevant in his last year in office. The presidential bully pulpit is likely his last tool against an array of hostile presidential candidates and an intractable Congress. I hope he makes the most of it.

He is getting some help from faith leaders. "It's wonderful that the president is doing this," said Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, who was present in the East Room during the president's remarks. "Since Congress won't do anything, he's doing the best that he can do, and we think that's wonderful."

The official U.S. bishops' response to Obama's speech, issued under the name of Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, managed to endorse the president's efforts without naming him: "We welcome reasonable efforts aimed at saving lives and making communities safer. We hope Congress will take up this issue in a more robust way."

Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell was less circumspect. "Thank God that someone finally has the courage to close the loopholes in our pitiful gun control laws to reduce the number of mass shootings, suicides and killings that have become a plague in our country," Farrell wrote in a blog under the headline "The Cowboy Mentality."

This week, we celebrate the first anniversary of the launch of our podcast, NCR in Conversation. Catch the latest episode here.

Related: President Obama outlines new executive actions on gun control

"President Barack Obama's executive actions, though modest, are first steps in correcting gun laws so weak that they are ludicrous," Farrell continued. "Congress has unabashedly sold itself to the gun lobby." 

You can read Farrell's full commentary here.

[Dennis Coday is NCR editor.]

A version of this story appeared in the Jan 15-28, 2016 print issue.

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