Opinion: Columnists

Gregory Kane: Which Obama is talking about violence today?

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Opinion,Gregory Kane,Columnists

Once again, Americans don't know which Barack Hussein Obama will show up, and when.

Will it be the President Obama that turned his State of the Union address into a virtual prayer meeting, channeling the Right Revvum Whoop 'n Holler as he told a throng of cheering Democrats that victims of gun violence "deserve a vote"?

Or will it be the one that talked to students at Chicago's Hyde Park Academy less than a week later? That Obama didn't call for a vote. Instead, he told students this: "No law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence. When a child opens fire on another child, there's a hole in that child's heart that government can't fill. Only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole."

Perhaps he was too gentle, since some of those "children" shooting other "children" are in fact near-adult teenagers who would kill just about anyone without so much as blinking an eye. But in admitting that "no law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence," the president was in essence repeating what National Rifle Association leaders had been saying for weeks following the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

And there was more. Within days of standing before Congress and the nation and implying that gun violence was about guns only, Obama told the students this: "In too many neighborhoods, the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town. For a lot of young boys and young men, they don't see an example of a father or grandfather who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected.

"And so that means that this is not just a gun issue. It's also an issue of the kinds of communities we are building -- and in that, we all share a responsibility."

It's one thing to hoodwink a bunch of whooping Democrats in the Congress; it's quite another to hoodwink a bunch of black Chicago teens who know what the real deal is when it comes to gun violence in their communities.

Members of Congress might not know that Chicago has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation -- these are, after all, the people that vote on laws without reading them -- but Chicagoans know it. So do most other Americans that have been paying attention.

Those Americans also know this: Violent repeat offenders drive much of our nation's gun violence. Getting those offenders behind bars is one thing; keeping them there is quite another. And the fact that they keep being released back into the population, to wreak more havoc on law-abiding citizens, sure as heck isn't the fault of anyone in the NRA, nor that of anyone that owns an assault rifle.

Two weeks ago, police in Newark, N.J., arrested three men and charged them with forcing a man to strip naked. One of the men then used a belt to whip the victim for a period of 90 seconds.

According to news reports, the incident occurred in August of 2012. The man that did the whipping was released from a New Jersey prison on July 30, 2012. He had just served only 18 months after being convicted of drug offenses, eluding police and possession of an illegal weapon. (One of the trio video-recorded the whipping; they were arrested after it went viral earlier this month.)

News reports don't say if the illegal weapon was a handgun, but what happened is yet another example of a violent criminal being sentenced to prison and then cut loose, to commit yet another violent crime.

The president is right: This isn't just a gun issue. It's a get-tough-on-violent-offenders issue.

Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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