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. Jack

    What conservatives often fail to notice when complaining about democrats "taking away our 2nd ammendment rights," is that the second ammendment does not actually say you have the right to bear arms. It actually says a "well regulated militia" has the right to bear arms. The supreme court gave you the right to bear arms, not the second ammendment. Clearly the founding fathers were calling for guns to be regulated when the constitution was written.

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

    Thank you, Mr. President. Please move America forward towards modernity and civilization. Thank you.

    April 8, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  3. The REAL Truth...

    @Tommy G – NEWSFLASH Tommy, Obama and the Dems do not have the ability to push such legislation thru the Obstructionist House. Get educated pls..

    April 8, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Spock

    Colorado has required background checks for many years and it didn't prevent the Aurora shootings. Where's the logic? None of these new laws would have prevented the three tragedies. These ignorant politicians should be required to show how a new law would prevent what has happened.

    April 8, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. SanityAndReason

    Most Americans want something done, but not what's currently being proposed. Unfortunately, most Americans don't take the time to understand what's being put into legislation. Nor do most Americans study history. Which is why when others from countries like the UK, Canada, and Australia warn us about this "slippery slope" becoming a reality, it's promptly ignored and called a fallacy. Guess what? It happens again and again and again. Each time people argue that it "can't happen here" and it does. Guess what else? The UN just passed a treaty on small arms trade, which requires participants to track gun ownership. Kerry and Obama are expected to sign off on it. The only hope is that the Senate won't ratify it.

    Now add 2 and 2 together - The UN treaty was scrapped last year because it was an election year in the US and it would have had a tremendous effect on the outcome. Senator Feinstein had her legislation ready to go last summer but was told to wait until after the election. She, Schumer, and Durbin have all been quoted as saying they'd like to see all guns disappear from the hands of civilians (except politicians). I ask, "why is the government afraid of law abiding citizens being well armed?" Because it interferes with the cycle of dismantling democracy.

    So instead of using real common sense to improve background checks, such as requiring states to submit adjudicated mental health records to NICS, they go after law abiding citizens under guise of trying to "protect" our children. I wonder if they'd be willing to apply the same logic to alcohol sales and possession? Why not make the current system work before trying to expand it. They know current proposed restrictions and requirements won't work. That's what they want. Then they can say "We tried it this way. Now we have to take them all away." It's called "Self Fulfilling Prophecy". They set up something they know won't work in order to get what they want.

    Did the same thing with the "Affordable" Healthcare Act and the "Economic Recovery". Both were meant to bring about total government control of healthcare and destroy the dollar as a major currency. Why else would we go 4 years without a budget but have out of control spending and expansion? The only way to get what they want is to devalue the US dollar to nothing and then com under a new "universal" currency. Now they're doing the same with the right we have to defend ourselves against criminals and tyranny. Look at the terminology they use. "Everyone wants common sense solutions." "Everyone wants background checks." They only hope that no one actually reads what they're putting into these bills. If people did, the majority would really be saying "THAT is not what we want." Why do you think the media and the democrats spend so much time vilifying the NRA? Because the NRA members actually read what's being proposed.

    I would suggest rather than calling each other names and believing every MSNBC, CNN, FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC, 30 second sound bite, that people actually dig for themselves and see what's going on.

    (i.e. Did you know under the Affordable Healthcare Act, persons over the age of 73 are no longer eligible for cancer treatments?)

    April 8, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  6. ugh

    obama doesn't get it.....

    April 8, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  7. SpencerRifle

    It's a very innocent sounding question...do you support background checks to prevent guns from getting into the hands of felons & the mentally ill? Yes, I do. But....and there's the rub....but, do you also support the government maintaining a database of transactions between private citizens? That's where I'd have to change my answer to "No". and if that means killing the whole background check proposition, then kill it.

    April 8, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  8. woodie

    "Control" is the keyword here, and the citizens of this country do not want to be controlled. Bark up some other tree.

    April 8, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  9. Paco 101

    If this President was really worried about saving the lives of innocent children he would be working on legislation to ban abortion....

    April 8, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  10. 2nd amendment

    DEspite what the media would have u believe and the polls would suggest a majority of americans do not support new gun control legislation or the obama administration.they ever tried to confiscate are guns there would b a fight on there hands and i would imagine they would b hard pressed to find anyone willing to do the confiscating.

    April 8, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  11. The REAL Truth...

    Donna - In the Newtown case, NONE of the proposed "solutions" would have made a difference because his mother was irresponsible in providing access to guns to a known mentally ill person. And she paid for that mistake with her life and unfortunately many others did too. Had she been required to register her son as mentally ill and dangerous, background checks would have stopped him from buying guns, which he didn't have to do in his case.
    -----------------------------------–
    The flawy in your logic is this.... Lanza STOLE the guns he used.. from a legitimate owner. He did not buy guns.. he tried! She was not irresponsible, yet you believe she should have registered her son for having mental issues to prevent a potential sale?? Define mentally ill please? There are VERY MANY people in the US who believe WLP and the NRA are mentally ill, so should they register and be denied ownership?? Many, many folks believe that arming teachers is the mmost insane idea ever proposed by the NRA, right up there with "let's have more easily available guns to fight the gun problem"!

    The root cause of the problem is NOT law-abiding gun owners, NOR the mentally ill, NOR the criminals!! It's the PROLIFERATION and AVAILABILITY of weapons that is the problem! Period. Stastically, far more gun deaths occur from friends, relatives, etc than from "criminals". Look at Chris kyle! We have laws in place for eveything from driving to insurance to selling stocks. These laws ALL affect law-abiding citizens. So?

    Every objection to restrictions on the 2AM is based on the legacy of FEAR and IGNORANCE pepetrated by the pro-gun lobby. I own guns, was raised around them. I have no issues with gun ownership, but the "criminals will always have guns", the "real problem is the mentally ill", "they took away their guns during Katrina", yada, yada yada, is deflective BS. Semi-automatic weapons (and hand guns) have no business in hunting. Competition shooting, well.. maybe. Other than air pistols, handguns have no other objective than to kill. Restrict them to trained, authorized people.

    The government is NOT going to take away your guns if you register them. Registration does not mean they have to be there IF they show up. If Govt tyranny on a grand scale ever occurs we'll have civil war as military, police, Nat'l Guard etc. will takes sides.

    April 8, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  12. Crucible Arms

    Claiming this will insure background checks are done on all private transfers is complete fabrication. According to the ATF, 70% of guns used in crimes are obtained illegally through theft or straw purchases. Straw purchases are when a felon's boyfriend or girlfriend buys the gun for them from a licensed dealer. "Universal" background checks are an opiate for the masses. Do you honestly think criminals are going to submit to background checks?

    April 8, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  13. wolffire1@gmail.com

    The new gun laws President Obama wants will do nothing to fix the real problem. We need to address the gang/drug problem and the mental health problem.We also need to go into the schools and teach conflict resolution to our kids so when they have a problem they don't reach for a gun. When I was a kid when some said there was a fight it was with our hands not guns. The Brady Bill was passed to "fix this problem" yet it hasn't done it. Because people that buy guns through gun shops aren't the problem. Gang/drug dealers do not buy guns from a gun shop or fill out background checks. Not fully founding health care is also part of this problem. Instead in most states it is barely founded because they don't h ave the money. In some states we take those with mental health problems hundreds of miles from the city/town they live in to places that can care for them or toss them into jail....and jail staffs don't really know how to treat them. So the Obama gun plan isn't going to work...because it is the wrong plan

    April 8, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  14. Jose79845

    The Senate should have a constitutional convention convened if they want to change the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

    Otherwise, go on to something else.

    April 8, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. Oh dear, Jon

    We don't need to ban guns. Period. We need to simply create a system of licensure and qualification to own guns, buy guns operate guns and buy ammunition for them.

    I FULLY support universal background checks. I FULLY support having a licensure for both the gun owner and each gun they own to require periodic safety inspections for our guns as we do for our cars and periodic tests to renew our license to own and operate our guns.

    Frankly, the process can be less rigorous than our drivers licence process. Once every 4 years a gun owner should be required to bring himself and his firearms in to be examined and tested for license renewal.

    If you pass all that, frankly I don't care if you're buying RPG's or fully guided missile platforms. We have a right to bare arms and congress should make no law banning any firearm. Instead of threatening to take guns away from people who safely and legally own and operate them today, just prevent those who mis-use these objects from getting their hands on them to begin with.

    It will be so much easier to charge murders if they are simply caught with a weapon they didn't register themselves.

    April 8, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. Here we go again

    The new gun laws President Obama wants will do nothing to fix the real problem. We need to address the gang/drug problem and the mental health problem.We also need to go into the schools and teach conflict resolution to our kids so when they have a problem they don't reach for a gun. When I was a kid when some said there was a fight it was with our hands not guns. The Brady Bill was passed to "fix this problem" yet it hasn't done it. Because people that buy guns through gun shops aren't the problem. Gang/drug dealers do not buy guns from a gun shop or fill out background checks. Not fully founding health care is also part of this problem. Instead in most states it is barely founded because they don't h ave the money. In some states we take those with mental health problems hundreds of miles from the city/town they live in to places that can care for them or toss them into jail....and jail staffs don't really know how to treat them. So the Obama gun plan isn't going to work...because it is the wrong plan

    April 8, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  17. Crucible Arms

    A TheREALtruth Regardless of the outcome this time, it's part of a "water against the rock" agenda to erode, bit by bit, the 2nd amendment right of law-abiding citizen firearms owners.

    April 8, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. Tim

    The nation's murder rate is near a 40 year low and the number of privately owned guns in the U.S. is at an all-time high and rising by about 4.5 million annually. Right-to-Carry states had lower violent crime rates on the average than the rest of the country. Total violent crime in Right-to-Carry States was 24% lower; murder 28% lower; robbery 50% lower and aggravated assault 11% lower. The cities with the highest murder rates were cities with severe gun control.
    FBI Crime Report 2007

    April 8, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  19. The REAL Truth...

    @ugh – obama doesn't get it.....
    -----------------
    Oh, Obama get's it alright! You don't get to be President of Harvard Law review and POTUS (in most cases) without having a couple of functioning brain cells. It's the gun lobby that doesn't get it.. our problems are NOT existing (or new) laws, it's enforcing those we already have. You can't do background checks on private sales without some form of registration. The NRA does not support registration of any kind. It would put a dent in gun sales.
    So they breed the FEAR and IGNORANCE which many of our citizens lap up without regard.

    April 8, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    If this bill is passed as written it will make it so that I can't even let a friend shoot one of my guns at the range I choose to go to without doing a background check first.

    April 8, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. Kevin

    If this bill is passed as written it will make it so that I can't even let a friend shoot one of my guns at the range I choose to go to without doing a background check first.

    April 8, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. John

    By stating that "my right" to own 100 shot clips, semi-automatic, military style "cop killers", supersedes your right to start reducing the incidence of mass murders in schools and movie theaters, I am telling you clearly where my priorities lie.....some effort has to be made to reduce this violence and arming teachers is probably is not the answer.

    April 8, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. cpp

    He's not giving up until we end up like North Korea.

    April 8, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. Fubarack

    McCain has sure turned into a whining weasel. He should research some of Pelosi and Reids tactics, and realize the benefits and liabilities of our system work for and against both sides. If he doesn't like the system, he could retire.

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

    ghostriter.....

    Actually, the New Orleans police confiscating weapons (there's actually a video of the police beating up a old woman because she was showing them a pistol) was sooooooo intentionally ignored by the mainstream media. Remember, at the time they were trying to paint Ray Nagan as a hero who was overwhelmed by nature and ignored by the current administration. The truth was that he ignored his own evacuation and emergency plans, refused help from the National Guard, and was wholly incompetent. The mainstream news carried all the stories about thugs with guns, but never showed what the police were doing. Remember, Nagan was a revered Democrat. They'd never show his police force doing the things they did.

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