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. CG

    the US people want universal background check, but the actual people who were elected by them, well, most of them don't. What does that tell you?

    April 8, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  2. Scott

    How many executive orders has he issued without votes?

    April 8, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  3. David

    "...the overwhelming support...among the American people should force action in Congress."

    Yeah, like Congress has ever cared what the People want.

    April 8, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  4. cartboy6

    It's interesting how our president wants to use public majority to pass gun bans. Wasn't this the same president 4 years ago that said that same public majority wasn't important when pushing through Obamacare? Hmmm.

    April 8, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  5. Juan Jesus Martinez Poco

    It starts with background checks for guns then they move for background checks for ammo, such as CA is trying to do. All the monkeys that did the mass shooting in the last few years had a clean background anyways. So what does that do? Nothing.

    April 8, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  6. Matt

    What part of "shall not be infringed" do you morons not understand? Congress is listening to the people. Don't penalize the law abiding citizens.

    April 8, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  7. Jim

    Where's the scolding for Fast & Furious? Does the President think it's OK to put 2000 actual assault rifles in the hands of Mexican drug lords? That is true hypocrisy. How about letting American citizens die in Benghazi? Shame on you Mr. Obama, shame on you for trying to pull the wool over our eyes to advance your agenda. Shame on you for using Americans as your props to beat us over the head. Shame on you for lying to us.

    April 8, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. allday1

    Please don't let the commie left take the last defense from tyranny that we have

    April 8, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  9. labman57

    McConnell and his fellow Republicans get their marching orders from the NRA and the gun manufacturing lobby, so they are simply carrying out the acts of obstructionism for which they have duly paid.

    April 8, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  10. gmenfan54

    As if criminals and the mentally ill will obey gun control laws.

    April 8, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. robrickmon

    If the president stopped campaigning long enough to lead, it might help.

    April 8, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  12. Greg

    The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world. There were 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010, compared to the 3.0 in the United States (over 40 times higher) and 0.21 in Germany (3 times higher).

    April 8, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  13. me

    Everyone keeps saying background checks ,the problem is 67000+ checks were denied in 2010 and only 44were prosecuted. If you aren't going to enforce the laws why will more of the same do anything?

    April 8, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  14. jerpell

    For Obama I guess he can't let a good tragedy go to waste...How often is he going to pick at that scab?

    April 8, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  15. Free thought

    Right aren't rights if you can take them away. If we allow govt to take one away, they will eventually take more until we have nearly no rights at all. Remember, govt only does what benefits them.

    April 8, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  16. Captain Obvious

    I would rather have another Sandy Hook massacre every day of the year than give up my gun rights.

    April 8, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  17. PevanB

    We owe them NOTHING!

    April 8, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  18. Michael

    Obama is the biggest liar I've seen in Washington DC in a long, long time. He claims that "80% of American people" agree with him on strict gun control. He perhaps has asked 10 people (his very close friends I'm sure) if they agree with his gun control position-but he sure as hell didn't poll a large sampling of American people.
    Obama hates America and he hates Americans. He has no trouble molly-coddling extremists, is afraid to call a terrorist a terrorist-but he knows what's best for you and me. I think not!

    April 8, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  19. FLmom

    "...to do what must be done." This man is sickening! If he gave a hoot about those kids and their families, he would tackle the problem by its root, not by its symptom but it's not about preventing another shooting, it's about disarming America. Newtown was merely a convenient occasion to push for disarming the public. Sickening!

    April 8, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  20. sammer

    The only vote they are owed is at election time, just like all Americans.

    April 8, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  21. D Conner

    Writing new gun laws isn't going to stop the crimes from happening. Look at Chicago. Some of the toughest gun laws and one of the highest guns crime rates in the country.

    April 8, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  22. SteveinLVNV

    Just more theatrics in an attempt to sway lawmakers to come up with more laws for the criminals to ignore, and more red tape for the law abiding. These tactics have been done before and found to have not worked at all... Just more feel good attempts to subvert the 2nd Amendment.

    There is no way to keep terrible tragedies from happening in the future. Instead, why not keep any criminal in prison for a very lengthy time without any plea deals or discounting their sentence... Criminal control NOT gun control!!

    April 8, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  23. SciGuy

    When a totalitarian is in the WH, you get totalitarian proposals.

    April 8, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  24. Ed

    Where do they come up with the majority of people support this? Everytime I check comments on a news story, EVERYONE but one or two is against new gun control laws.

    April 8, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  25. patriot

    When will the president and all his goons learn that maybe not all the American people is on his side...

    April 8, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
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