April 8th, 2013
06:40 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama scolds lawmakers for reticence in passing gun control

(CNN) - President Barack Obama angrily chided lawmakers reluctant to back gun control legislation on Monday, saying the overwhelming support for measures like universal background checks among the American people should force action in Congress.

The president was speaking in Hartford, not far from the site of the massacre in Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Obama's calls for tighter gun control laws began in the aftermath of that shooting, though measures he proposed appear to be stalled in Congress.

His message on Monday was crafted as much for lawmakers as it was for the Newtown victims' families, who sat behind him on stage and who traveled to Washington with him on Air Force One to further lobby members of Congress on passing new gun laws.

MORE: Sandy Hook families to ride Air Force One to D.C., lobby Senate

"Newtown, we want you to know that we're here with you," Obama said. "We will not walk away from the promises we've made. We are as determined as ever to do what must be done. "

The American public must hold elected leaders to a higher standard going forward, Obama asserted, saying the issue should span the political divide.

“We’ve got to expect more from ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to expect more from Congress. We’ve got to believe that every once and a while we set politics aside and we just do what’s right. We’ve got to believe that. And if you believe that we’ve got to stand up.”

The Senate is expected to begin debate as early as this week over proposed firearm legislation, but Democratic sources admit that the gun bill as currently written does not have the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

One proposal being considered would expand background checks to gun shows and Internet sales, but would not require checks for any other private transactions, according to multiple sources from both parties who are familiar with the talks. That falls short of the universal background checks favored by Obama.

MORE: Leading Senate talks falling short of universal background checks

The powerful National Rifle Association is staunchly opposed to the bill, and a group of Republican senators have already vowed to block the bill. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would also join the Republican filibuster.

Yet recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans favor making a change to the background check system – a fact Obama raised Monday.

"If our democracy's working the way it's supposed to, and 90% agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy, you would think this would not be a heavy lift," Obama said, saying the Republicans who were vowing the filibuster the bill were, in essence, telling Americans that their "opinion doesn't matter."

“Why wouldn’t you want to make it for law enforcement to do their job?” Obama asked. “Why wouldn’t you want to make it harder for a dangerous person to get his or her hands on a gun? What’s more important to you, our children or an A grade from the gun lobby?”

Some states have gone ahead and passed their own gun control measures, including Connecticut, which expanded its background check system on Thursday among other tough gun laws.

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre blasted the new firearms restrictions, saying the only people who will follow the new regulations are law-abiding gun owners, not criminals.

"I think the problem with what Connecticut did is the criminals, the drug dealers, the people that are going to do horror and terror, they aren't going to cooperate," LaPierre said Thursday on Fox News. "I mean, all you're doing is making the law books bigger for the law-abiding people."

MORE: Malloy says NRA’s LaPierre acts like a circus clown

On the federal level, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is concerned that the Senate bill could lead to record keeping of gun owners and gun sales. He has been in talks with Democrats about a compromise, but with nothing promising on the horizon, Democrats have turned to another Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Obama's speech Monday night was the latest in the White House's ongoing push for Congress to pass gun legislation in the wake of a spate of mass shootings last year, including the Newtown massacre and the shooting at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater.

Vice President Joe Biden, who spearheaded a task force on coming up with recommendations for Congress, will deliver remarks Tuesday, further putting pressure on Capitol Hill as lawmakers return from their two-week recess.

– CNN's Dana Bash, Ted Barrett, Brianna Keilar, Paul Steinhauser, and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.

This week, CNN TV and CNN.com will take an in-depth look at “Guns Under Fire: A CNN Special Report On Background Checks.” On Tuesday night at 8 p.m., AC360 will debut an exclusive interview with former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head two years ago in Arizona. On Wednesday, the network will look at gun control and background checks as Congress is expected to tackle the issue head-on in the coming days. Watch CNN TV and follow online at CNN.com or via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.


Filed under: Connecticut • Gun control • Gun rights • President Obama
soundoff (656 Responses)
  1. rick

    Looks like freedom is going to win out again. Well, gun-banners, look on the positive side: gun sales should go down now that the threat of a ban is dying out.

    April 8, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  2. Robert

    Obama, please, for the love of God, just shut up for once.

    April 8, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  3. AdoplhH

    Shall not be infringed!!!!

    April 8, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  4. King Barry

    Maybe Barry will take your gun and 2nd amendment right, but he will give you a really nice hug!

    April 8, 2013 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  5. nflpsychic

    Enforce the laws that are on the books?

    April 8, 2013 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  6. TJ

    Drug lords do not murder 20 children, crazy people do. Only a crazy person with no sense of reality would commit this unspeakable act. How hard is it to keep guns away from people with mental health issues. it should not be that hard.

    Mental health drugs are tracked everyday in this country. We need to focusing on MH

    Thomas Jefferson would not allow someone with a severe Mental Ilness carry a gun. Why is this so hard.

    April 8, 2013 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  7. Stephanie

    Obama is just using these tragedies to carry out his hidden agenda; that being to disarm US citizens so that the government can eventually move into a position to control us. It's coming, people. Just you wait and see.

    April 8, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  8. CG

    Aggressive Gun Control laws can only be effective with aggressive punishment. 'Due process' should be waived when there is 100% unambiguous proof that murder with intent was committed. And then the punishment should be summary execution. No trial, nothing. In other words, if criminals want to break the law and commit murder, then they lose all rights and get executed when caught.

    April 8, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  9. Dan Jones

    Obama is so full of lies. He doesn't care one bit about the victims of gun crime. If he did he would be doing things that would effect that. As it is he is determined to take away the one type of gun that is the least used in crime and the best fit to fulfill the 2nd Amendment.

    April 8, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  10. michelangelo64

    I believe Republicans will have blood on their hands if better gun control laws are not enacted soon. But, I also don't believe they have a conscience.

    April 8, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  11. tim

    we own them nothing

    April 8, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  12. Jackie

    13 Lawmakers and the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have to follow the orders of their boss NRA and the citizens don't matter. McConnell announced he will not be in DC as it's not important to vote on the gun bill as the NCAA game is more important. Mitch will be asking for the votes to be re-elected to continue to do nothing. As more kids die the NRA suggest every parent should buy their child a gun. Sunday a 3 year old shot a deputy's wife and now the parents have to explain to their 3 year old that she killed a woman/Mother.

    April 8, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  13. Frank Manafusco

    The argument about gun laws not keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals while an accurate statement, is no longer relevant. I'm much more worried about the nut jobs who legally obtain guns and then carry out the random massacres which plague our society more than armed drug dealers. With some exceptions of course, armed drug dealers and other "professional criminals" perform a public service as they mostly take out other drug dealers and professional criminals. Legalizing drugs would solve one half of the equation. When is the last time a drug dealer or professional criminal walked into a theater, school or shopping mall and just started randomly spraying bullets with the intent to carry out mass casualty? The people who do that have almost always been those who obtained their guns legally or have access to legally obtained guns (eg parents etc). These pathetic "poor me" wussies would not have the sack or the knowledge necessary to obtain similar firepower from "professional criminals". It's a shame that common sense will never be allowed to prevail. Our country has become a laughing stock on so many levels and it makes me sad.

    April 8, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  14. John

    You want your 30 shot magazines but why no crying over 3 round max in shot guns for bird hunting??

    April 8, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  15. t3chn0ph0b3

    We live in a democratic republic. Those who govern do so with our consent. We should not be held hostage to violence by an unreasonable severe minority. This is the US of A, not the US of NRA.

    April 8, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  16. Mike M

    "Never ever let a crisis go to waste"...

    April 8, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  17. RickV

    I only heard the quacking sound of a lame duck. Exploiting tragedies is just plain punk.

    April 8, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  18. MikeinNM

    Over 100,000 Americans will have taken a bullet this year (75,000 injuries, 31,000 deaths, a third by suicide), one every 5 minutes. How can we reduce this figure? More thorough background checks and greater restrictions on high-capacity magazines may be a start. I’m open to hearing other constructive ideas.

    April 8, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  19. sonnie3

    To make such a constant effort to dismantle the 2nd amendment/ with a Sandy Hook Knee Jerk Action is not leadership , but using the bully pulpit for such a disaster, we need to keep in mind all that are killed in cars and we are not talking about banning certain cars or limiting the gas tank to 5 gallons or declaring 4 doors must go as 2 door cars are safer? Our potus could use his time and effort to balance the budget. Maybe he should look at his carbon footprint and then look at himself in the mirror to see that he has a forked tongue,./

    April 8, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  20. MikeinNM

    What do Iran, North Korea, Syria, and the NRA have in common? Unlike the 154 countries in the UN General Assembly, including the US, who “overwhelmingly approved the first international treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar global arms trade” on 4/2/13, “after a more than decades-long campaign to keep weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, warlords, organized crime figures and human rights violators” (Associated Press), it seems the enlightened states of Iran, North Korea, and Syria will have no part of it…and the NRA concurs. While loud cheers erupted in the assembly chamber after the 154-3 (23 abstentions) vote was cast on the electronic board, the AP later noted, that the chances of it being ratified in the US are slim as the “powerful NRA has vehemently opposed it, and it is likely to face stiff resistance from conservative in the Senate, where it needs two-thirds to win ratification.” There may be a bumper sticker in the making here: “Join the NRA. Iran, North Korea, and Syria have.”

    April 8, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  21. Dallas

    Nothing they are trying to will do anything to curb violence nor crime and they will not punish me nor my family by disarming us for something we didn't do, they are barking up the wrong tree, focus on the real issues like psychotropic drugs, mental health, societal ailes, poverty etc. Obama has been the biggest political disappointment of my adulthood and I regret ever showing him support.

    April 8, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  22. Laquisha

    Get over Newtown already and stop using those families to push your agenda. How about you do something about the crazy people first before you mess with my guns

    April 8, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  23. coloradom

    We're not a democracy. Just want to clarify that...

    April 8, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  24. Steve

    The GOP doesn't care about the people, only there Corporate donors. It's amazing how they lie about their guns being taken away... So gullible!

    April 8, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  25. Jeff Smith

    Funny how CNN points out the fact that " the majority of Americans" are for gun control but never pointed out the majority of Americans were against Obama are during that coverage...

    April 8, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
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