Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting
September 17th, 2013
07:11 PM ET
12 months ago

Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting

Updated 9/17/2013 at 8:03pm

(CNN) -The Washington Navy Yard shooting could possibly have been prevented if tougher background checks were in place, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, raising new concern about the frequency of mass shootings.

“The fact that– we do not have a firm enough background-check system– is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings. And, you know, I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings,” he said in an interview with Telemundo.

“Everybody expresses understandable horror. We all embrace the families and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with those families right now– as they're absorbing this incredible loss,” he added.
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Obama pushed for “commonsense gun safety laws” that could help reduce gun violence, like the shooting in Washington that killed 12 people. The gunman also died.

“Initial reports indicate that this is an individual who may have had some mental health problems. The fact that we do not have a firm enough background-check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings," he said.

Asked by Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart if the Navy Yard shooting meant Americans were condemned to live in a country where massacres are just a part of daily life, the president said that didn't have to be the case, but he put the onus for action on the Congress to reform on gun control laws.

"I have now, in the wake of Newtown, initiated a whole range of executive actions. We've put in place every executive action that I proposed right after Newtown happened," he said. "So I've taken steps that are within my control. The next phase now is for Congress to go ahead and move."

But the situation in Congress appears unchanged from this past spring when bipartisan legislation proposing tougher background checks failed to gain enough support.

Will Navy Yard rampage move the dial on gun control?

Exasperated gun control advocates in the Senate said they remain several votes short of what is needed to pass tougher background checks to prevent felons and the mentally ill from buying guns.

"We don't have the votes," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who earlier led the Senate in a moment of silence for the victims of the tragedy. "I'd like to get them but we don't have them now."

"I don't know when enough is enough," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last year in Newtown, Connecticut, last year led an unsuccessful effort to toughen gun laws.

She said she is "not optimistic" the Navy Yard shooting would do enough to change the political equation in Congress where most Republicans and several Democrats remain wary of new gun laws.

Top House Dem: Gun lobby likely to block new laws

In response to Newtown, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, tried to pass compromise background check legislation but it fell five votes shy on a vote in April.

He said he wants to wait for the facts to come in on the Navy Yard shooting before making a push to vote again on his bill because it would be "ridiculous" to have senators vote on it again "if we don't have the support."

Manchin hopes Democratic senators, like Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Begich of Alaska, and Republican senators like Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted against his bill before might change their minds and support it in the future.

Family members of Newtown victims will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday lobbying lawmakers to support tougher background checks. Their visit, which comes nine months after that incident, was planned before the Navy Yard shooting.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina didn't point to gun control when he was asked about the 12 fatalities at the Navy Yard at the hands of a sub-contractor who gained access to the base legally.

"My question is how do people get hired? It's not the weapons so much as how did he pass the security clearance? What kind of security screening do we have that we give secret clearances and jobs on important navy facilities? That to me is the bigger question," he said. "I don't think anything has changed about guns."

CNN's Dana Bash, Lisa Desjardins, and Becky Brittain contributed to this report.


Filed under: Gun control • Gun rights
soundoff (280 Responses)
  1. Rusty Krus

    As long as the GOP continues to be the NRA's sword swallowers, we will never get sensible regulations passed.

    September 17, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  2. jasonbuckley

    And let the chorus of gun nuts begin the cries of "that big bad black man wants to take away our guns" in 3... 2... oh wait, they started that up before the bodies were even cold. How many more people have to die before these extremists are willing to come to a reasonable compromise? Requiring background checks is not a violation of anybody's rights.

    September 17, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  3. RWB1956

    While I would to see some kind of background checks, I think these people that do these shooting sprees snapped after they purchased their weapons or they had access to someone's weapons when they snapped. Unfortunately these things are going to continue to happen in this country. I've known a couple of mentally ill people who deteriorated over the years. Fortunately they were snatched up before they did something. We just don't have the resources anymore in this country for various reasons.

    September 17, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  4. What's in that tea anyway?

    Agreed Mr. President but the NRA and its gun lovers believe that everybody should be armed / strapped to the hilt with as many large volume clips as possible to carry.....everywhere....In other words no "gun safe zones" and unfettered gun rights for the mentally insane and blind folks....probably even kids should be armed if they are willing to drop the pacifiers. Geesh...NRA supporters; isn't this a bit much?

    September 17, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  5. YeahRight

    Wow, Obama.

    The GOP *wanted* to toughen background checks, but Obama would not accept it without also illegal UNIVERSAL background checks (which the government does not have the authority to require). Obama with his typical "my way or the highway – everything I want or nothing" caused this shooting.

    September 17, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  6. MikeinNM

    How bad would it have been if a tougher background check were done and the Naval Shipyard massacre hadn't happened? How bad would it have been if enough Congressmen and women voted to have tougher background checks?

    September 17, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  7. NorCalMojo

    Federal Bureau of Mental Health?

    September 17, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  8. Chris

    Like I said on a previous article – ARM every one in America, then you have a boatload of Good Guys. It worked during the Cold War – Mutually assured destruction. That way when a nutter opens up with a gun, ALL the Good Guys can respond and hopefully in the hail of crossfire actually hit the Bad Guy. A few friendly fire casualties are acceptable IMHO. It would also give the NRA backers and Supporters a huge boost in revenues since we all know who runs the NRA anyway!! :)

    September 17, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  9. mikemikemike3

    The guy had a SECRET SECURITY CLEARANCE.....how would a background check stopped him?? He used a shotgun....not an assault weapon..... he did not use a high capacity magazine. Silly solutions to a complex problem of MENTAL ILLNESS.

    September 17, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  10. shadowscry2

    I am continually amused by this President's take on gun laws and gun violence. He always seems to tel lus what "may" have prevented the incident. Well if the shooter had got the flu that day, if a bus had hit him or if one of the victims had been able to fire back this "may" not have occurred. Having said that, let's be complete realists now folks. We live in a country of 330 million people. If a law abiding dutiful citizen decides to snap one day and take his frustrations out on the populace there is little anyone can do to truly "prevent" it. What we can do is limit the scope and range of the destruction. If it's not guns it's going to be bombs or poisoning reservoirs. Our homegrown criminals have learned quite a lot about terrorism the past decade. All our President's "prevention" speech is just another Democrat bullet to to the Constitution.

    September 17, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  11. MarkW

    Can we FINALLY get the NRA put on the list of terrorist organizations that are a threat to our national security? They've claimed another 12 deaths. The NRA fought like crazy (so to speak) last year AGAINST background checks for the psychotically ill. Their precious misreading of the "state militia" clause of the Constitution was paramount, and even keeping guns out of the hands of schizophrenics could not be tolerated.

    This organization is WORSE than Al Qaida in the number of deaths they have caused in recent years. WHY are they not on the State Dept's list of terror organizations? There is no sane reason not to put them there.

    September 17, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  12. Lou50

    gee eliminate affirmative action. the data was there. the Navy booted him, anyone with a clue could see that problem. you don't learn that as a community organizer. speaking of incompetence we need to impeach the President!

    September 17, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  13. elucidated1

    The argument against background checks is completely stupid and indefensible. Besides, the NSA already knows who the gun owners are and the guns they own. And they don't even know it. How stupid are they? Oops.

    September 17, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  14. Mike S

    Yesterday, the families have not been notified of the casualties and Obama was already trying to score points. Never let a good tragedy go to waste I guess.

    September 17, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  15. Ron L

    There will be NO CHANGE in gun control laws because some Americans have a unreasonable fetish about them. So, get ready for more incidents like this. Don't worry after about a half dozen more it will be reported the same way they currently report gun deaths in Chicago or any other city. JUST ANOTHER DAY, LIVING THE AMERICAN DREAM..

    September 17, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  16. here and back again

    Why would anyone care that a person hearing voices can obtain a gun? It is his Second Amendment right and that is all that matters...right?

    September 17, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  17. Get Real "Real Truth"

    FBI just released these numbers today. 30 years of mass shootings, which are shootings in which 4 or more are killed, 574 people murdered. Murders except for mass shootings over same period of time 559,854. The mass shootings while tragic and made sensational by our politicians and lobbying groups are less then .1% of murders in this country over the last 30 years.

    September 17, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  18. R.d.R.

    With all of the surveilance and electronic snooping capabilities of the FBI, ATF, NSA, Homeland Secuirity,etc., how about linking all of these government agencies to every states data bases as has already been accompolished with our drivers licenses so there will be instant red flags alerting gun stores that a potential gun purchaser is not capable of passing any litmus test for purchase/ownership of any firearm. Had the U.S. Government and responsible State agencies responsible for conducting background checks, had the same information that has been gleaned over the past 24 hours possibly this tradgedy could have been avoided. The shooter certainly couldn't have walked into a gun store and made a purchase with his past record. The outsourced secuirity companies who made it allowable for him to have a security clearance certainly fell short of their mission. TOUGHER BACKGROUND CHECKS? HOW ABOUT ENFORCING THE BACKGROUND CHECKS AS IS WRITTEN ?

    September 17, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  19. With any luck

    They should focus on mental health, gun control has nothing to do with any of these murders.

    September 17, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  20. Shelm

    What is all comes down to is Right wingers would rather these mass shootings keep happening than for us to make obtaining guns the slightest bit harder. They'd rather keep the lower class oppressed and impoverished than give up a tax break our bring our jobs home, or pay a fair wage.

    The year Obama was elected the country finally realized how poisonous Republicans were to this country, how quickly we forgot.

    September 17, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  21. huskykma

    How in the world would background checks have prevented this? He had a background check, and he passed it. What is needed is tougher a mental health system that actually will allow someone's mental health issues to show up on a background check.

    September 17, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  22. debra

    Background checks? YES!!!!!!!! This is a no-brainer and should be required for EVERYONE!! It does not take away any of your gun-slinging rights–just protects the rest of us from nut cases!!!!!

    September 17, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  23. Obama has to go

    How about we get a new president?

    September 17, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  24. phil

    Obama is totally worthless,

    September 17, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  25. jake

    So shrinks are now reporting to law enforcement who can and can't have a gun? If Alexis was so dangerous, why wasn't he legally committed to a mental institution, where a judge would determine if he was mentally ill enough for his his rights to be taken away. What the Dems want is any mental health professional to report the mentally ill to the gov't for the sole purpose of taking away their 2nd Amendment rights.

    September 17, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
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