`US gun laws significant challenge to Barack Obama`

By Kamna Arora | Updated: Feb 15, 2013, 18:17 PM IST

He has already begun his second stint as the leader of the world’s most powerful country. Barack Obama has a number of tasks to perform in his second term as the US President. Not Iraq or Afghan war, Obama, in the coming four years, has to ponder more over economy, unemployment, gun violence, immigration, Middle East and Asia Pacific.

In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, John Kenneth White, an expert on US politics, discusses the challenges facing Barack Obama and US ties with India.

John Kenneth White is a Professor of Politics at the Catholic University of America and is the author of `Barack Obama`s America: How New Conceptions of Race, Family, and Religion Ended the Reagan Era`.

Kamna: What are the domestic challenges facing US President Barack Obama over the next four years?

Kenneth: The economy remains a primary challenge for President Obama. The weak economic report in the fourth quarter of 2012 suggests that the private sector in the US is poised for growth, but the holdup remains with the US government. President Obama and the Congress need to come up with long-term tax and spending policies that provide the private sector with assurances over the next four years that there will not be government stoppages or massive layoffs of government employees at the federal, state, and local level.

Immigration remains a challenge and while most analysts believe that there will be a long-term immigration reform (that is much needed) put into place, doing so will not be easy--despite agreement amongst Democrats and Republicans that this must be done.

Reforming our nation`s gun laws is a significant challenge, and there will be considerable resistance among both parties in the Congress to Obama`s proposed reforms. My thinking is that the best possible outcome is a national gun registration and background check policy, but even this much-agreed upon reform will be hard to get.

Kamna: I am particularly interested about gun violence. Should the divisive issue of gun control be on Obama’s immediate agenda? Also, how do you think he should be controlling the gun menace?

Kenneth: Yes, gun control will be on the immediate agenda. The shocking murders in Newtown, CT have altered the national thinking on this issue. I believe President Obama is proposing the right reforms: banning assault weapons (which Bill Clinton did in 1994), requiring a national gun registry and background checks, closing the gun show loopholes that avoid national checks.

Kamna: The crisis in Syria seems unending. Is there more that the United States should be doing?

Kenneth: The crisis in Syria has presented a real conundrum for the Obama administration. While everyone in the US agrees that Assad should go, the problem is we don`t really know who the rebel groups are and what would be the consequences for the Mideast of a post-Assad government. Until we know more about the composition of the rebel forces, the US will be reluctant to provide arms, air support, and much else.

Kamna: Do you think Obama`s second-term foreign policy will lead to any surprises to US-India ties?

Kenneth: I believe US-India ties will continue to progress because President Obama has made this a priority. The only question is will US policymakers be distracted by some crisis that diverts their attention from Asia.