Washington: The power of Barack Obama's rhetoric on the scourge of gun violence on Tuesday was matched only by the timidity of his actual announcements - and further by the mindless reactive response it provoked among his Republican opponents.
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In January US President Obama weeps while talking about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Speaking before an audience that included shooting survivors and families of the dead in the White House's East Room, the President wept as he spoke of the 20 first-grade children murdered in Sandy Hook in 2012.
"Every time I think about those kids, it makes me mad," he said at one point, wiping away tears.
Anyone who saw him struggle to maintain his composure as he named each of those children during a vigil days after that shooting – or his mounting fury during the similar addresses he has made since - would know that the President's performance was not political theatre, but a sincere response to what he sees as an ongoing and needless tragedy.
But the central measure he announced in a package of 10 gun control provisions could be generously described as modest, and fairly described as almost meaningless.
The key provision will require people "in the business of selling guns", via the internet or at gun shows, to register as licensed gun dealers and to conduct background checks on those they sell guns to. This would hold them to the same standards as those selling guns from established gun dealers.
This is not a new law, rather it is the clarification of an existing law. It is not clear how many more background checks will be conducted as a result, or how many lives – if any – it would save.
Indeed it is such a modest proposal that research suggests it is backed not only by a majority of Americans, but by a majority of Republicans, even by a majority of National Rifle Association members. And – at least until Obama announced it – it was backed by the most senior elected Republican in the country, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2013 that such a measure was a "reasonable" and "obvious" way to keep guns out of the hands of those who had no business bearing them.
So how did Ryan respond yesterday?
Via a press release issued even before Obama had finished speaking he said, "No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment.
"We will conduct vigilant oversight. His executive order will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Ultimately, everything the president has done can be overturned by a Republican president, which is another reason we must win in November."
Minutes after Obama's address finished The Eagles song Hotel California came over the radio at Clark Brothers Gun Shop in Virginia.
Scott Carter, a friendly bloke with a healthy moustache who will retire this week after buying guns for Clark's for 46 years, had just caught up with news online.
His views were in line with those revealed by recent political surveys – that is he vehemently opposed Obama's push to broaden background checks, while simultaneously agreeing that it was good policy and even current law.
When you get this, you understand what passes for gun debate in America.
How can you hold both views at once, I ask him as The Eagles drone about checking out but never leaving and a handful of men browse the range of handguns and rifles.
"I think he wants to disarm this country," says Carter. "I don't think he likes guns."
This is crucial, because as far as Carter and many gun rights activists are concerned, the second amendment right to bear arms is the crucial right, the one that ensures all the others.
"Put it this way," he says. "I think this country would look very different if it wasn't for private ownership of guns."
This is not necessarily the majority opinion in America but neither is it a rare one. It is the central theme of the NRA's political message, and it is becoming Republican orthodoxy.
Before Obama spoke, Grover Norquist, a Republican campaigner most famous for drafting a pledge against tax hikes signed by all but one GOP candidates at the 2012 election tweeted, "One wonders: Just what does the Left have planned? And why is it so important that they first disarm the people before they tell us about it?"
Carter conceded as we spoke that if a Republican president proposed what Obama was advocating, he would be more likely to support it.
Politics in America has become so corroded by mistrust and paranoia that Carter – and many people like him – simply do not trust Obama enough to support anything he proposes.
Each step to restrict the sale of guns will be followed by another, he believes.
In a sense he is right too. Obama does believe that Second Amendment rights have extended too far, often at the cost of other basic rights. He said as much in his speech.
"Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well, and we have to be able to balance them," he said.
"Our right to peaceful assembly – that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown."
And Obama also declared that his announcements were the first step rather than the last to countering the NRA's dominance in the gun debate.
"It will be hard and it won't happen overnight. It won't happen during this Congress," he said.
"It won't happen during my presidency. But a lot of things don't happen overnight. A woman's right to vote didn't happen overnight. The liberation of African-Americans didn't happen overnight."
In the wake of the recent mass shootings that have struck America, Helen Kruskamp, mother of two little boys, volunteered to join the gun-regulation group Mom's Demand Action. She is now its co-ordinator in Durham, South Carolina.
Asked if Obama's speech went far enough, Kruskamp she was excited by it.
"Finally someone in the federal government is starting a conversation some of us have been having for a long time," she said.
"At this point I don't know if I could have asked him to do any more."