Why Obama cried over gun control

Story highlights

  • Mel Robbins: Obama cried today during his announcement of executive actions for further restrictions on the sale of firearms
  • Tears are an appropriate and important reaction to the sorrow of losing loved ones to guns, she says
  • Robbins: America has become numb to this

Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. Watch President Obama as he joins Anderson Cooper and a live audience for a CNN prime-time event: "Guns in America," at 8 p.m. ET Thursday.

(CNN)I've always believed that if you and I were forced to see the scene inside the Sandy Hook elementary school in the moments after Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members -- instead of shown photos of the killer-- we'd be moved to tears and inspired to act.

Today, surrounded by people whose lives were rocked by gun violence, Obama made an emotional plea about guns. He talked about victims -- from Columbine to the streets of Chicago. He said he got "mad" when he thought about "those kids."
Obama's emotional gun control speech in 90 seconds
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And he began to cry when he talked about the slaughter at Sandy Hook. He took a heavy pause, and he got in touch with the real story -- the human one. He put politics aside and reminded us what this is really all about.
    Mel Robbins
    Weeping over the shooting death of children -- of anyone -- is appropriate and important. That this is noteworthy when someone does this in public says a lot about where America is. Someone had to do it.
    We are so accustomed to gun violence that we have become inured to it -- numb. It's easier.
    The President cried because he allowed himself to feel something no one wants to feel: the tremendous pain of losing someone you love, the shame of knowing you did nothing to prevent it and the relief that overcomes you when you commit to changing. Obama is not numb -- when you're numb you do nothing.
    Instead of changing the channel, offering "condolences" on Twitter or sending prayers during television appearances, as many politicians have done when there is another slaughter, the President sent a message.
    Today, among other things, he introduced a new requirement mandating that individuals "in the business of selling firearms" register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called "gun show loophole," which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.
    Is it enough? No. Will it stop the next shooter? Perhaps. What we do know is doing nothing is no longer acceptable. And we have to start somewhere.
    It was the victims of Sandy Hook and the letters of kids across the country begging the President to act that helped him make this calculation. It was the pain of loss that should move us all to act.
    Kids have a knack for simplifying issues. Adults make gun control complicated. It's not complicated at all: Bad guys shouldn't get guns and adults should do whatever we can to make sure they don't.
    The Second Amendment specifically authorizes a "well regulated" militia -- not an unregulated one. The NRA may object, as it always does, to any action taken to control the proliferation of weapons across the country, including President Obama's actions today.
    President Obama Announces Executive Action on Guns
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    But 87% of Republicans support universal background checks and closing the gun show loopholes. That includes 84% of all gun owners. As the President said, it's "simple math."
    We've let ourselves be held hostage by the gun lobby -- by politicians who care more about money to fill their re-election coffers than about doing what's right. As my 10-year-old would say: That's stupid.
    Today, Obama did something smart. He calculated the "simple math" that actually matters. A CNN analysis found that from 2001 to 2013, 406,496 people died by firearms on U.S. soil. Too many innocent Americans are dying and that number includes way too many kids.
    The thought of another Newtown happening -- be honest: You know it could -- is a calculation you've already made yourself. Should this not make every American weep?
    Gun reform is coming, despite what the NRA and Republican presidential candidates will tell you. And just as in prior civil rights movements, justice and sanity will prevail.
    But the President didn't take executive action because he wanted to win some political game.
    He did so because he allowed himself to get real about the cost of our cowardice.