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. David Witcraft

    Ya, the issue is registration, which many gunowners consider a prelude to confiscation. When the instant check we have now was put in place, we were promised that records were purged within 24 hours, but dealers still have a record of their sales that they must keep for 3 years, I believe. Recent cases where guns from crimes were tracked back to a buyer, is calling this into question. Some were clearly within the 3 year window, some a lot less so. Basically, what would happen under universal checks, is that police are concievably able to trace the gun through multiple transactions. The person at the end who can't prove they sold a gun is then charged with furnishing a weapon to a felon. This is de-facto registration, and some gunowners consider it a prelude to confiscation(every previous confiscation scheme has started with registration). They're not prosecuting the ineligible people who try to buy guns now, but it seems likely they will vigorously prosecute those who transfer weapons to friends/relatives without the check, even if the buyer commits no crime with the weapon.

    April 8, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  2. joeazona

    repost:we tried registration in Canada... billions of dollars later no lives saved and many many guns confiscated after the registry. They are never happy, it will lead to semi auto bans, then handguns, then bans of 'military' or 'high power' calibers, then to any mags that are removable, then everything but shotguns and .22's... then poof... nothing at all.... like the UK will be soon.

    The very same people are working on the US from outside and from within.... ask George Soros or Bloomberg..

    April 8, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  3. Mike

    "the overwhelming support for measures like universal background checks among the American people"

    You know, I keep hearing that from him. But I have yet to see any evidence it is true. In fact I have only been able to find one study done by an organization known far and wide as being for sale to produce study results custom tailored to meet your need. And they sampled 2000 people in the Northeast. That's all. 2000 people TOTAL in places like NYC, Chicago, Washington DC.

    Further, speaking of truth, if one were to actually look at the FBI's statistics, and with no "manipulation" just using them as presented, if EVERY RIFLE of every type were simply to evaporate all at once, it would reduce the number of people killed with a firearm – for whatever reason – by one percent. Yup. Look for yourself. 1% is the very best case scenario.

    Now if you were to ask me I would have to say that if we owe the Sandy Hook parents anything it would be a little truth for a change; gun control is not about guns. It is about control.

    April 8, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  4. Bill

    Really? "Not far from Hartford"? NOTHING in CT is far from Hartford...the state is only 45 x 90 miles, and Hartford is nearly dead center...

    April 8, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  5. Smarg

    We should scold Obama for leaving Chicago a grotesque killing machine. Wasn't he a community organizer there? Why the hurry to remove guns from law abiding citizens?

    April 8, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  6. Takeslonger!

    It takes longer to get a passport than it does to get cleared for a gun.

    And what is wrong with tracking guns and gun sales? You track the ownership and sale of real estate, phone numbers, cars. What, you only care if you can tax it? Then tax it!

    April 8, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  7. Stephen Daugherty

    Republicans don't have any other agenda than to say no when Obama says yes, as a cheap way to look good to their voters, without actually passing anything. They're not thinking of the next ten years of politics, just the next newscycle, which they hope people here will not look beyond. Wake up: the next time dozens are killed in a mass shooting, the Conservative movement and the gun lobby will take the blame for it, because they cannot even bear to let the least little bit of daylight come between them and the furthest extreme of their position. Because they have defined things in absolute terms in this fashion, they've deprived themselves of any sound middle ground, so they can't lose with any cushion. They lose, and they lose badly the next time.

    April 8, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  8. pilot546

    Why doesnt Obama spend this much effort on the real problems in the US instead of flying around and spending millions on something that most of the US does not want?

    April 8, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  9. .

    I thought the day would never come that I would agree with this congreesional house on anything but this is one issue that has got me in their corner.

    April 8, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  10. Jay smokeable

    If democracy was working like it is supposed to, marijuana would be legal.

    April 8, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  11. j

    Its funny. when the majority want something Obama wants, he emphasizes it... but when prop 8 passed and not wanting obamacare were decided by voters, he didnt give a crap and proceeded anyway the other direction, regardless of votes.

    April 8, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  12. Mike S

    No offense... but you didn't owe the 8000 handgun deaths a year a vote?

    April 8, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  13. .

    I thought the day would never come that I would agree with this congressional house on anything, but this is one issue that has got me in their corner. It is certainly an issue that I weight more heavily than others.

    April 8, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  14. J R Brown

    The Democrats have been trying to get their gun control agenda some traction for a long time...that the President is exploiting the deaths of 20 children to further a liberal agenda is an embarrassment. Don't even pretend this is about those kids; this is about a long standing liberal agenda item and they are living the words of Rahm...never let a tragedy go to waste.

    April 8, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  15. fayray11x

    I used to think the GOP was the party of hate, lies and insults. But sadly I have to add uncaring death mongers to the list.

    April 8, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  16. Libssuck

    Everyone is focused on the 26 children that died that day, what about the 3,288 that are aborted daily???

    April 8, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  17. Dan Molden

    Obama is a liar !!!!! Gun laws he wants would nothave prevented the cConnecticut shooting at all and he knows it ! He wants to start a civil war .. and that's what he will get ;-)

    April 8, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  18. James

    I do not have guns, but I am grateful to those who have them, since they defend my freedom.

    April 8, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  19. Nicholas Smith

    The Speech: What a disgusting propaganda work of art.

    April 8, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  20. danbfas

    So, all of a sudden, Obama likes democracy. 90% favor it so, "do the right thing". I just wonder when 60% of Americans didnt want Obamacare, then, well, democracy didnt mean a whole lot to the President.

    April 8, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  21. Bouboubr Zlaq

    Greg, this absolutely not true. the registry saved many many lives in Canada, but the Gun lobby is way too powerful.

    April 8, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  22. Mary Carter

    I am so pleased to know that the senate and most probably our United States government is staunchly behind murder.The murder of children born and unborn and just killing anyone who gets in the way. It has become the national pastime, sort of like baseball used to be. Oh well, the NRA rules the United States so now we know who to go to for help. We most certainly are not getting any from our politicians. This country is in so much trouble that it will never, ever recover because it hates and it is greedy and it is intrinsically evil. Glad my children are grown, praying for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So sorry they have to live in this disaster. I just hope they can get out of here while there is still time.

    April 8, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  23. GodfreyS

    We should ban illegal drugs. That way our drug problem will go away. Some drug dealers kill people with guns. Some drug takers kill people with guns. Some robbers kill people to take their stuff and sell it so they can buy drugs. We should ban guns then when drugs and guns are illegal, we can live in a better society. Then if we ban robbery, people can keep their stuff and everybody will be happy. Maybe it isn't a problem with all drug dealers or takers, just the ones that do heroin. We should focus on them since they do more harm than well.. um I don't know but we have to try something.

    April 8, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  24. Elizabeth

    He is so adamant about background checks yet still can't figure out where hundreds of semi-automatic weapons are that they accidentally gave the cartels (*Please research operation fast and furious aka Operation gun runner)

    April 8, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  25. SaveOurKids

    These gun freaks lack morals and mentality. People want gun control but the lobbyists who rule the country are preventing it.

    April 8, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
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