Family Matters

Letters to Obama: Children Plead for Gun Control

In handwritten letters, children make the case to President Obama for stronger gun control laws

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Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Barack Obama gives high-fives to children who wrote letters to the White House about gun violence, Hinna Zeejah, (from left) Taejah Goode, Julia Stokes and Grant Fritz, after announcing the administration's new gun law proposals in the Eisenhower Executive Office building Jan. 16, 2013

Children are the newest gun-control advocates, putting pen to paper to beseech President Obama to “not let people own machine guns or other powerful guns like that.”

Those were the words of Grant, an 8-year-old from Maryland who wrote to the White House three days after 20 first-graders and four adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

On Wednesday, Obama announced broad proposals to stem gun violence, joined by Grant and a handful of other children who have written him after last month’s massacre.

Julia, an 11-year-old from Washington, D.C., told Obama that she “may not [be] that into politics but my opinion is that it should be very hard for people to buy guns…I know that laws have to be passed by Congress but I beg you to try very hard to make guns not allowed.” She shared with Obama that she has four brothers and sisters. “…I know I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of them,” she wrote.

Obama appears to have paid attention to the kids’ letters, urging Congress to support him in requiring universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines like those that alleged gunman Adam Lanza used to turn an elementary school into a war zone.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expressed support for Obama’s proposals, saying in a statement, “The Academy agrees with the President that to prevent future incidence like the shooting in Newtown there must be stronger gun laws, comprehensive access to mental health care, and no restrictions on federal gun violence research and prevention efforts…Congress must show similar leadership and act promptly to develop and ensure passage of effective legislation an regulatory measures that will significantly reduce the senseless loss of young lives…Pediatricians stand ready to assist.”

The White House may be hoping that the kids’ candid sentiments — Grant includes a postscript to Obama that reads, “I know you’re doing your best,” and 10-year-old Taejah writes, “I am very sad about the children who lost their lives in Conn.” — have as much an effect on Congress as they appear to have had on the President. In addition to the letter-writers, families of those killed in Newtown and survivors of the massacre were also at the White House to watch the President sign 23 executive orders that would go into effect without Congressional approval. These include regulations to stiffen penalties for people who falsify information on background checks when buying guns, the removal of restrictions that make it difficult for the government to research gun violence, and requiring law enforcement to trace the source of guns gathered in criminal investigations.

image: Kids' letters to the President Obama to change gun laws

The White House / AP

But while Obama high-fived some of the children who watched him sign the orders, Congressional leaders expressed doubt that the President’s sweeping proposals would get approved in their entirety. As AP reported, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said, “There are some who say nothing will pass. I disagree with that. What I’m interested in is what we can get.” As the politics that Julia says she’s just “not that into” begin, lawmakers will grapple with interest groups and debate constitutional rights. The outcome is far from certain, but it’s unlikely that Congress will come across any more compelling plea to curb gun violence than the handwritten pleas of little kids.

(MORE: Schoolchildren Send Thousands of Handmade Snowflakes to Sandy Hook)