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Analysis: Obama Has Lost The Battle On Gun Control

Four years after President Barack Obama called for national gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the U.S. has seen a spike in firearm sales, little legislative action on background checks and an incoming administration that has pledged to deliver on the National Rifle Association's priorities.

During Obama's two terms, he has delivered 14 addresses to the nation in the wake of mass shootings, more than any other president. In December 2012, after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama called for dramatic action on gun control, according to ABC News.

Reflecting on the deaths of 20 children and six educators, Obama asserted that Congress needed to "take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

Obama's stance on firearms drew fierce opposition from the NRA, whose leadership has accused the president of attempting to strip away gun rights nationwide since 2008.

With the president's second term coming to a close, evidence would indicate his attempt to institute gun control in the U.S. has failed, with firearms proliferating across the country during his administration. For example, while 847,808 were sold in January 2008, that number spiked to 1,790,154 in January 2013, reports ABC News.

Economics professor Jurgen Brauer of Augusta University believes the rise in firearm sales was a direct result of gun owners' anxiety that the Obama administration was working to strip away Second Amendment rights.

"It's very important to understand -- it's not the actual event of the mass shooting that causes people to be concerned about their firearm rights as they understand them," Brauer said. "It's what happens after the shooting ... Whenever there is a threat of legislation, either at the state or at the federal level, then people run into the firearm stores and purchase more guns."

Following the Sandy Hook massacre, two ultimately doomed bills were introduced in Congress that would have banned the sale of automatic assault weapons and instituted universal background checks for firearm sales nationwide. In 2015, Obama stated that Congress' rejection of the two pieces of legislation were the most disappointing moment in his presidency.

"Right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down and Congress literally does nothing, that's the closest I came to feeling disgusted," Obama said during an interview with podcaster Marc Maron, according to Rolling Stone. "I was pretty disgusted."

NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker stated that her organization's lobbying against background checks for firearm sales was justified, asserting that Obama was aiming to violate the Second Amendment.

"The threat was there," Baker said. "They wanted to propose an extreme gun control agenda."

In July 2015, Obama revealed to the BBC that the most personally frustrating realization of his presidency was that the U.S. was "the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings."

While Obama's efforts to institute what he views as common-sense gun laws have been largely fruitless, the election of President-elect Donald Trump signals that gun control in the U.S. will swing dramatically in a direction that favors the NRA.

"For the last decade, gun rights advocates ... have really been playing defense," Baker said. "Now ... we have an opportunity to be on offense and we can pursue legislation like concealed carry reciprocity."

While several states have passed background checks and concealed carry laws during the Obama administration, many of those local laws can be undercut if the Trump administration enacts national reciprocity, which would allow for a gun owner with a concealed carry permit from one state to have the legal right to concealed carry in a state that otherwise forbids it, according to NPR.

Constitutional law professor Adam Winkler of the University of California Los Angeles School of Law believes the NRA will heavily lobby for the Trump administration to pass national reciprocity, ban gun-free military zones and "gut the background check system."

In Winkler's view, the NRA would like to see Trump make the national background check system "less effective, less streamlined and make it harder for prosecutors to find gun criminals."

During the presidential race, Trump had voiced support for national reciprocity and was a vocal supporter of the NRA. In addition to pushing laws that loosen requirements to obtain a firearm or concealed carry permit, the president-elect could also rescind Obama's executive orders on background checks.

Based on these developments, it would appear that Obama's effort to tighten gun laws in the U.S. has ultimately failed. Nicole Hockley, the mother of one of the Sandy Hook victims, says she does not blame the Obama administration for the failure to pass universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

"You have to give them an 'A' for effort," Hockley said. "They tried hard but the president's powers are limited and it didn't get enough [votes] in the Senate or the House to make meaningful change."

On Dec. 14, the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, Obama posted a message on his Facebook page reflecting on the victims’ families and his efforts to change gun laws in the U.S.

"We're still inspired by the survivors and the families who have worked to make a difference," Obama wrote. "And we've tried to change ... I still believe we have the courage to change."

Sources: ABC News, BBC News, NPR, Rolling Stone / Photo credit: U.S. Department of State/Flickr

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