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Is Obama exploiting kids to push gun control?
Some conservatives say it's wrong for the president to spotlight children's pleas to end gun violence as he rallies support for his policies
On Jan. 16, President Obama hugs children who wrote letters to the White House about gun violence.
On Jan. 16, President Obama hugs children who wrote letters to the White House about gun violence. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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onservatives are lashing out at President Obama, accusing him of using children as props to tug at heartstrings and rally support for his proposals to reduce gun violence. When Obama announced his gun-control proposals this week, he was flanked by four kids, between the ages of 8 and 11, who wrote to him asking to limit the availability of guns following last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show that Obama was using the kids as "human shields" because he knew their earnest pleas would make it harder for gun-rights advocates to oppose him. On MSNBC, Hardball host Chris Matthews criticized Limbaugh for rejecting a "human approach to this problem." Is Obama exploiting children, or merely trying to make it clear why reducing gun violence is so important?

He's exploiting kids: By posing with children, Obama is trying to send the message that "you are either with us and the children, or you are on the side of mentally-ill, child-murdering maniacs," says Carrie Lukas at Forbes. He should be ashamed. Americans need to "have a real conversation about the efficacy of gun laws" and how to prevent mass shootings. But "using children's pleas to end violence" as a rhetorical tool is inexcusable.
"Using children to pass gun laws is grotesque and childish"

But children deserve a voice in this debate: Grownups have argued fiercely about gun control, "but as usual, kids say it better," says Joyce Slaton at BabyCenter. Taejah Goode, 10, said he grieved for the Newtown victims and asked Obama to "STOP gun violence." Julia Stokes, 11, urged Obama in her letter to make it "very hard for people to buy guns." Obama was right to share these letters. These voices must be heard. Kids have "a simple, heartfelt way of cutting through the nonsense."
"Kids’ gun-control letters to Obama will make you cry"

And conservatives do the same thing: If the right thinks it's wrong to involve children in politics, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, they should be mad at the National Rifle Association, which "crossed that line" with an ad complaining that Obama's daughters are protected by armed guards, while most schools aren't. The truth is that presidents in both parties, dating back to the Reagan administration, have surrounded themselves with children to push policy initiatives. Pretending Obama's the first to do it is "simply disingenuous."
"Did Obama use kids as political props?"

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