April 8th, 2013
06:40 PM ET
1 year 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. timverba

    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.
    – – – –
    If the government does not collect records on gun sales, how does it know that the gun sellers are paying their fair share of taxes. Perhaps this is the crux of the issue. Gun sellers are not paying taxes.

    April 8, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. Guest

    I will never hand over my gun and I will never stop carrying. If you are scared then to bad. You are in the wrong country. Go live in your gun free zone and play the victim.

    April 8, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  3. McBob79

    More rhetoric and half truths from the spin doctor in chief. Nice guy but can't do the job.... Can you say Jimmy Carter?

    April 8, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. Jim

    Longtime Democrat supporter and because of their hypocritical views on "Saving Children" I will now be supporting the repubs in the next election(s). If guns were the #1 kill of children I would most likely see their point but since its not even in the top 7 I am disgusted at their blindness to this issue.

    April 8, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  5. Common Sense

    Who doesn't love a party whose entire agenda is to make Illegal Immigrants legal and legal firearms illegal. What a pathetic bunch socialists.

    April 8, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. Mark

    @Donna – Never let a tragedy or crisis go unused in order to further your far left agenda.... pathetic.
    Is this really "far left"? It's background checks, not restrictions based on barrel type, ammunition limits, etc. I don't see that as far left at all. Why do you see it as far left?

    April 8, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  7. dukesurlaw

    "This is a crisis that can't go unresolved. So you must be among the 10% of ***Amurikans*** who don't support background checks."

    Spoken like a true liberal, Donna. Pseudoscience bless ye, oh great one.

    April 8, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. ghostriter

    Zondar, did some research. You are referring to the local police in New Orleans that confiscated guns during the aftermath of Katrina.

    Well, this is a reach. 1st off, In the aftermath of a disaster that didn't receive federal assistance for a week or so. 2nd, that was the local police department. Not the federal government. And presumable due to a high number of incidents for a short time.

    The funniest parts about using this is that I didn't hear much about it at the time. Of course, since the population is mostly black, that might have something to do with it. The other part is that this was done on Bush's watch. Seems to me that republicans had a hand in this one. Wonder why LaPierre was silent on that front?

    All in all, during times of crisis, certain rights can be suspended. The 2nd is not immune from that. Not saying that this was right in this case. But there is nothing illegal about ding such.

    April 8, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. scranton

    Stop your incessant campaigning and get to work on the economy.

    April 8, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. tobygdry

    There is probably a glaring issue that has not been addressed with the "universal back ground check" for all firearm transfers, and that happens to deal with firearms that are sold privately. The only way you can track private firearm sales tracked and have back ground checks done would be through a complete firearms registration program. If not, then who is to say that an individual that ownsa firearm didnt sell it to someone else before the law was passed? or even worse, look at the gun laws in CA. yes, they have gun registration, and anytime someone gets arrested and charged with a crime, the owner of the weapon either has to turn in the firearm willingly or the police show up and confiscate the firearm (unannounced, in full force). So what would stop them from confiscating the firearms of any citizen if the govenernment decided to do so?

    April 8, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. Tommy G

    Sniffit
    "how to you reconcile mental health background checks with HIPAA privacy laws?"
    With legislation. Seriously....do you think Congress can't draft something that changes HIPPAA and accounts for any mental health reporting requirements or strengthens the ability of mental health professionals and law enforcement to get people committed etc.? You're just being deliberately obtuse. Congress could certainly do so. The problem is that some of them just don't want to or even want to try because they don't want to lose a source of campaign donations
    -------

    So this might actually do something to address the REAL problem. Why isn't Obama and the Democrats acting on this? They control two thirds of the government. Instead they go around pushing non-solutions to the real problem. All they push is the very sme drivel they always push. Attacks on law abiding citizens wishing to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

    April 8, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. mike

    So someone decides to kill someone but is suddenly deterred because there is a law that says he can only put 10 rounds into his weapon instead of 15 or 30???? That definitely makes sense. If those laws actually worked wouldn't simply making murder illegal suffice??? These new gun laws are as dumb as the people supporting them...they do nothing except make people "feel" better. Smoking kills 400,000 Americans a year and is NOT an Olympic event but we want to ban guns instead????

    April 8, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. ghostriter

    Zondar, I stand corrected. NRA did make a push in NO and they attempted to confiscate guns for a few months. Still done under a republican president. Still doubt it could be even thought of being done federally.

    April 8, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. SpencerRifle

    A handful of blue states, traditionally hostile to gun ownership, have enacted more regulations but the remainder of the country has not. Maybe the underlying reason for that is that most people outside of the blue enclaves do not want more laws.

    April 8, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  15. Mike

    This gun control debate is just to divert Americans away from the fact that Obama and the Dems have financially buried this country. They know it'll never pass and the topic, like the president, will fade away into obscurity.

    April 8, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  16. Donna

    Mark
    @Donna – Never let a tragedy or crisis go unused in order to further your far left agenda.... pathetic.
    Is this really "far left"? It's background checks, not restrictions based on barrel type, ammunition limits, etc. I don't see that as far left at all. Why do you see it as far left?
    -----

    Please read my previous post. Background checks wothout accurate medical records being included ARE USELESS. The government maintains a Do Not Fly list right? Why aren't they maintaining a Do Not Sell To list starting with all known felons, drug dealers, criminals that have used weapons to commit crimes, mentally deranged people, people on psychiatric drug treatments, etc. The government does not need to track LAW ABIDING CITIZENS, it needs to track THE PROBLEM PEOPLE using complete and accurate information. Again, they are already doing this for airline travel, why not for this?

    April 8, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  17. well

    the government of the 1% thieves and thugs want to disarm 99%. who da thunk it.

    April 8, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. nilla

    CommonSense said, "Who doesn't love a party whose entire agenda is to make Illegal Immigrants legal and legal firearms illegal. What a pathetic bunch socialists."

    What on Earth do either of those things have to do with socialism?

    April 8, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  19. K from AZ

    "No gun owner will lose their gun". Is that the same as Comrade Obama saying "you can keep your doctor & your health plan"?

    April 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  20. Josh Bender

    I think the time has come to start impeachment of this President he has time and time again over stepped his rule

    April 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  21. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- TAKE BACK THE HOUSE

    "how to you reconcile mental health background checks with HIPAA privacy laws?"

    With legislation. Seriously....
    -----------------------------
    Fair is Fair

    There goes your answer. New legislation.

    April 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. ghostriter

    I don't see the problem with mental checks and HIPPA laws. You don't have to disclose the nature of the illness or anything. Doctors have a moral responsibility to report dangerous individuals. There isn't anything in the laws (I think) that prohibits a doctor from saying whether or not someone is a patient.

    And if it's court ordered, it's public record anyway.

    April 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  23. Platypus

    Enough of this garbage already.

    April 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  24. Jim

    Oh yeah take advice about gun trafficking from an administration who trafficked guns across the border during fast and furious.

    April 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. christian

    so this is the logic of the NRA- "we shouldn't have gun laws since the criminals arent going to follow them". Well in that case, lets get rid of every single law that ever existed!

    April 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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