Rahm Emanuel, former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama, famously said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not before.”
President Joe Biden could be using a past tragedy in much the same way, to do something that couldn’t be done before.
On Sunday, which marked the third anniversary of the Parkland school shooting, President Biden called on Congress to pass stricter gun laws, including a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” Biden, who on the campaign trail had suggested he would support the rights of the “sportsman” while questioning the need for certain firearms when pressed on the issue.
“I support the Second Amendment,” then-candidate Biden said last March while visiting members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who were building Fiat Chrysler’s assembly plant in Detroit. “I have a shotgun, I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge. You’re not allowed to own [just] any weapons. I’m not taking your gun away at all.”
Now less than a year later, the tune is a bit different.
“This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call,” the POTUS said in a statement marking the anniversary of the Parkland shooting, which took place on February 14, 2018. A teenage gunman opened fire at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed 17.
Biden’s statement comes as the organization March for Our Lives, a student-led demonstration in support of gun control legislation, has pushed the new administration to appoint a gun czar who would serve in a cabinet-adjacent position.
“We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer,” the statement from the White House added. “Today, I am calling on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets.”
Even as the then-candidate vowed “not” to take away guns, he promised on the campaign trail to take guns off the streets. Biden said he would take action on guns within the first 100 days, and he had reportedly met with gun control groups Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Actions last week.
The message of addressing gun violence was included in Sunday’s statement. “In this season of so much loss, last year’s historic increase in homicides across America, including the gun violence disproportionately devastating Black and Brown individuals in our cities, has added to the number of empty seats at our kitchen tables.”
With such a tone, it is hard not to suggest that Biden is taking a cue from Rahm’s playbook.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.