Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting
September 17th, 2013
07:11 PM ET
1 year 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. Greater Good

    Facilitating a mentally deranged person's access to guns makes as much sense as storing matches and gasoline next to a furnace. It's a no brainer, but the NRA has clouded the minds of once rational people.

    September 18, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  2. Cary Grant

    Obama once again displays his ignorance of gun laws. According to news reports, the shooter bought his shotgun at a gun store, where they would have to run a background check. He had nothing on his record indicating that he was ineligible to own a firearm. If they didn't, then the gun store, and the shooter would be in violation of existing laws. So HOW exactly would more background check legislation have prevented this?

    September 18, 2013 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  3. Tigger 55

    Colorado, Paid (Lots) for Comprehensive Background Check, Carrying a CWP (for a while), Walked into a gun show, 1 hour and 20 minutes later FAILED a Quick Check! The System IS Broken! Purchase was for a Long gun for Target? Not even going through all of the "Hassle" of being on the "Right side of the Law" has any Benefit.

    September 18, 2013 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  4. Anonymous

    The wacko had security clearance. How would a background check help

    September 18, 2013 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  5. Richard

    All the anti-gun people have to do to see background checks, waiting periods and safe-storage laws enacted is to refuse to demand more and more prohibitions and laws AFTER they get this much. The REASON the NRA won't budge on anything is that they know, even if the anti-gunners get the three key laws mentioned, they will only come back for more. The anti-gun people need to compromise and the NRA will capitulate owing to what will be popular demand.

    September 18, 2013 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  6. Fox Mulder

    Tougher background checks might have prevented DC shooting? The man had a security clearance. There's no more thorough background check in existence.

    September 18, 2013 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  7. Mark V

    DC has some of the most stringent background checks and requirements already. This person still got weapons. Gun control does not work, even in Australia they are having new gun crime issues. Great Britain is having multiple calls for relaxing gun control for hunting and sport shooting.

    Oh well, 6 more months of extreme prices because people think Obama will succeed in taking our guns. The man is about as early a lame duck president that you can possibly be after his screw-ups. I'm just sad to say I was dumb enough to vote for him the first time.

    September 18, 2013 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  8. Gary Thompson

    I am in favor of background checks, but what part of the background check would have prevented this (Navy Yard) gunman from buying a gun when, by their own admission, the governments 2 background checks they did for his security clearance revealed no problems for granting him a security clearance? They completely missed a multiple-arrest record that the news media uncovered in 1 day! Now he's got a security clearance and he's hearing voices?! You gotta do better than that.

    September 18, 2013 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  9. Recovering libtard

    News flash to Barry – mr. Alexis had already been subjected to a $15000 background check performed by the OPM which resulted in him being granted 'secret' clearance...

    September 18, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  10. davidv

    Background checks have been turned over to Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad – coordinated with the United Nations of course.

    September 18, 2013 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  11. Habberdash

    He passed a background check to get the gun he used. This was after he shot out someone's tires in a rage blackout. After he fired a round into his ceiling because he was mad at his neighbor. And after he told a counselor that he was having psychotic episodes. If this does not disqualify someone from buying a gun, then we effectively have no background check.

    Regarding Lindsey Graham's comments: what exactly is his point? That Alexis shot the wrong people? This man would have been a danger regardless of where he worked.

    September 18, 2013 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  12. jon

    Maybe cops should get background checks too? Killer cops have been in the news or has everyone forgotten?

    September 18, 2013 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  13. mustangvoodoo1

    Oh boy here we go again. Let's exploit half truths and let the gun grabbers take away ALL weapons so THEY can sleep better at night (well unless someone decides to break in. When that happens, they call 911, when SECONDS count, the police are only MINUTES away)
    Banning Assault Weapons WON'T stop the killings, banning all guns will only disarm law abiding citizens because last time I checked criminals don't have a good track record with compliance with ANY law.

    The ONLY thing that can help stop the madness is:
    Include in background checks that said individual has not been adjudicated by the courts or a mental health professional as a danger to themselves or others.
    That right there may have stopped the Gabby Gifford's failed assassination attempt, may have stopped the Aurora Movie Theater Massacre and MAY have stopped the NAVY Shipyard shootings yesterday
    Sadly none of the above would have stopped Adam Lanza and the Sandy Hook child killings because although Lanza was extremely mentally ill, his mother allowed him access to weapons.
    The ONLY commonality people is MENTAL HEALTH!!!!!!!

    September 18, 2013 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  14. Wally

    How can they suggest tougher gun laws when they have no idea at this point where the gun came from!

    September 18, 2013 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  15. Sandra

    I think it's time for Obama to ask for the OPPOSITE of everything he's ever asked for before. Then the heads-up-collective-asses congress would finally oppose it all and the right things would finally get done!

    September 18, 2013 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  16. Jim1973

    Tougher? ONLY if you mean linking the NICS check to a mental history check and past felonies for 5 years. Anything else and you once again are failing.

    September 18, 2013 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  17. Thaddeus Kozubal

    Is there any chance we could round up some of these people and send them over to the House of Representatives to convince our lawmakers to act? Just a few shots from the gallery may be all that's needed.

    September 18, 2013 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  18. James

    These horrific mass shootings could possibly have been prevented if strictly background checks were in place.

    September 18, 2013 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  19. JoshO

    A 'tougher background check' would have prevented this? Dude had a 'secret' clearance from the DOD. Background checks don't get any tougher than that.

    September 18, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  20. Name

    On a government owned facility. . Maybe its not background checkd but s security issue?

    September 18, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  21. Yogi Berra

    Bad things happen. You can't wrap the world in bubble-wrap. You want to save a whole lot of lives, ban cars and cigarettes.

    September 18, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  22. Brent

    2nd amendment, follow it

    September 18, 2013 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  23. Just Me

    Well here we go again; with the knee-jerk reaction. Let's do something I don't care what it is; as long as I look good as a politician. God, Allah, the Lord, Buddha, take your choice must like crazy people; he makes so many of them.
    If it was not for tools (including the gun) the human race would not be who it is today. Even the mistakes we make; make us who we are and who we will be in the future. And you will never be able to take all the crazies out of the equation.

    September 18, 2013 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  24. Antonio V.

    Apparently Mr. Obama doesn't understand that asking to include mental health as part of the NICS profile means that courts will have to get involved every time someone goes to see a therapist, and the consequences of that are ominous alone. Would the average American be willing to seek professional help if they knew that, as if the stigma alone wasn't bad enough, that there could be legal consequences to seeing a therapist?

    Moreover, if the growing trend of mass shootings correlates to SSRIs and other mood-altering medications that have violent and suicidal tendencies as potential side effects, wouldn't it make more sense to investigate the medication than to chase after guns?

    I loathe that people keep parading the families affected by the event in Newtown, too. Despite the hype, that was actually a case of the NICS working as it's supposed to: the shooter was denied the purchase of a firearm, so he had to steal (and murder) to gain access to one. That isn't the fault of the NICS background checks, or even the fault of poor enforcement. That was a sick person bent on destruction. No new law can stop that from happening again, so putting the grieving families in the limelight serves no other purpose than to exploit their misery. It's disgusting.

    September 18, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  25. zutux

    knee jerk reaction without any substance.

    September 18, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
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