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. John

    The NRA is nothing but a two bit terrorist organization.

    April 8, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. Shawn

    "Don't block it. Don't hide behind a procedural action to prevent a vote. That's the wrong thing to do. And that's how the president clearly feels."

    I love how Republicans and Democrats constantly accuse each other of using filibusters, while BOTH parties use them ALL THE TIME.

    April 8, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Peach

    How come you didn't surround yourself with children like you did right after Sandy Hook Mr. President? You usually use people as "props" to advance your agenda. Sorry, but its not going to work this time........

    April 8, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. pjoe

    So how will this law prevent this from happening again? If it happens again, will you repeal this law?

    Sorry, I am skeptical.

    April 8, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. kevin

    Obama is an idiot...... Why doesnt he give his speech in Texas or some other state.... Why a state that passed the most stringent guns law in the US..... Doesnt sound like ti is going to do him any good.

    April 8, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. Mike

    Were on the brink of war and hes out preaching about gun control more worried about his socialist agenda then the state of our country possibly going to war and maybe even nuclear war. Oh wait you have to know what your doing in order to avert a war my bad his lack of leaderships skills comes out once again!! OBAMALONEY!!

    April 8, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. A Great Republican

    THIS GUN MADNESS MUST STOP!

    Write you representatives – IF THEY STAND AGAINST THE WILL OF 90% OF AMERICANS, WE WILL VOTE ALL YOU "R" OUT!

    April 8, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. rs

    The filibustering, anti-action GOP needs a wee bit of a reality check: 92% of Americans back the concept of a background check for people trying to buy firearms. That is a massive approval for a proposed law. To simply block it from any discussion, or an up or down vote (naturally requiring a super-majority to beat their obstruction) shows one of two things.
    First, theat the Republican party cares little for the will of the people, and;
    Second, that they can fairly be accused of being in the pocket of the NRA- and de fact, wish to continue a broken system that arms crazy people, criminals and terrorists. To not even hold hearings (where they might be subjected to the opinions of victims and families of victims of gun violence will testify is raw,unadulterated cowardice.

    The GOP has lost elections because of political blundering. This is one case whee they stand to pick, rather than lose votes. Are they smart enough to do so?

    April 8, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. Reef

    "Hey y'all, let's get up on some dem guns, know what I sayin'?"

    April 8, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. klars

    It would be more productive if the President stayed in Washington DC and got in the faces of members of Congress. We know, the latter have selective hearing.

    April 8, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. Leo

    @blah,

    Only if it was guaranteed 100% beyond any reasonable dout, would I support it. These proposals don't guarantee anything, thus I don't support them.

    April 8, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. Jim D

    The ONLY way to enforce background checks on private sales is to have a national registry on ALL guns. Dont let them lie to you. They just want a foot in the door and then they will change just like taxes. And it also opens the door for more socialistic involvement in everything thing you do. Dont sell your freedom away we will have to physically fight to get it back.

    April 8, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. Brad76

    This is borderline obsession by the likes of Obama and Piers Morgan. *tsk tsk

    April 8, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  14. Sane Person

    Here's a thought, America.. Why don't you get your country in working, functional order first, so that every-day people don't feel they need a gun just to be safe? It says a lot about your country that people feel that way.

    April 8, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  15. ERKO

    I love watching the GOP cry. Their tears sustain me. Next chance they realistically have is 2024, and that's if they stop acting like clowns.

    April 8, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. just askin

    Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer
    I have three daunting questions I would like to pose to the millions of gun toting "good guy with a gun" advocates across America....
    ---

    i have only one for you. would any of the democrat proposals have prevented any of the attacks you point to, especially newtown?

    of course they wouldn't. so another question.

    why are you proposing new laws that don't address the problem?

    April 8, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  17. crosshairs

    Hey blah blah –

    Well, here's the question anyway...what if the current legislation being proposed could or would one day prevent your love ones from being another statistic. Would you support or still oppose this legislation? I kindly await your response!

    The thing you fail to see (or choose not to see may be more like it) is that such legislation would make it EASIER for one of my loved ones to become a statistic because it DOES NOT prevent the perp from getting and using a gun. There isn't a law that will. Let's make this simple for you – prohibition failed, OWI laws don't prevent drunk driving (just simple examples here) and these gun laws sure aren't going to prevent the guns from getting in the wrong hands..........they'll just keep them out of reach of the right hands.

    April 8, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  18. DC Suks

    Why are the politicians so desperate to disarm Americans? Do theyknow something the rest of us don't that put them in fear for their lives?

    April 8, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  19. Mike

    I'm for background checks but not banning anything. My concern with the background checks though is what is needed for input? For example, does my doctor need to report that I'm on acid reflux medicine and that every now and then I get in a really bad mood because of my reflux? See what I mean? Where does the violation of our freedoms stop?

    April 8, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  20. Paul

    I wonder if this round of ads will feature actors with their finger in the trigger guard while pleading for "sanity".

    April 8, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  21. Jack Dawson

    Which statistic, the one where people protect themselves or where they are victims? None of the legislation will save a single life.

    April 8, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. Gordy

    Ok, so let me get this straight: Our economy is in the toilet and NK is threatening us with nukes, and the only thing these morons care about is gun control and gay marriage?

    April 8, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  23. rs

    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.
    __________________________
    So you support straw buyers, who were the focus of Fast and Furious in Arizona? You think it right that people buy firearms then sell them privately to criminals and cartel members?

    April 8, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  24. firewalker

    Obama just another FAILED LEADER in America's history.

    April 8, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  25. ColoradoPhil

    Newtown shooter had major mental health issues. Arizona shooter had major mental health issues. Aurora shooter has major mental health issues. Virginia Tech shooter had major mental health issues. Three of them passed background checks. Not a peep from the president about how we should fix that issue. Universal Background Checks are only a good thing if they actually stop the people that commit the crimes that get us so stirred up. WHEN DO WE DISCUSS MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES????????????

    April 8, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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