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. ConfucianScholar

    Obama, as always, is clueless.

    September 18, 2013 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  2. abdallah7907

    ,,1,,((( O mankind! Say No God But Allah, Achieve Eternal Salvation )))

    " Laa ilaaha illallah " (There is none worthy of worship except Allah.)

    ( I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger )

    ( Introduction to Islam )...

    September 18, 2013 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  3. Getoverit

    Noooooo! We need more laws! Ban all guns!

    September 18, 2013 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  4. Ken

    What a load of crap from Obama. The person was honorably discharged from the Navy (there was not enough evidence for any of the misconduct charges to stick). In his work as a contractor in Japan and Maine, there was no complaints and his work was good. And while their are reports he might have had mental issues, there are no medical findings to say he had issues. Every single proposed law would have done NOTHING to stop this person from getting a permit, buying firearms, etcetera... Obama knows this, yet he goes out and says well, maybe tougher laws could have stopped this. What a pile of BS!

    September 18, 2013 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  5. Tim Bingham

    It's simple. They can start by firing the contractors who conducted these so called, background checks. It's pretty sad when a news organization can uncover many factors that would have denied this persons clearance within 30 minutes. Why isn't the FBI performing background checks for secret clearances?

    September 18, 2013 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  6. SixDegrees

    "Tougher" checks? How about just doing the checks you're SUPPOSED to be doing in the first place? Mental health status, criminal record, military record – NOTHING about this guy was looked at, it seems, even though those are some of the very first things any competent investigator would look at.

    September 18, 2013 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  7. So should we let people who hear voices have guns?

    Christians claim to hear Jesus – so should THEY get to have guns?

    Which imaginary voices are acceptable and which aren't? Can someone please explain?

    September 18, 2013 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  8. Skarphace

    If nothing was done concerning gun control legislation after Sandy Hook, then nothing will ever be done.

    We Americans just have to get used to the fact that crazy, violent people will always have easy access to guns in this country and hope that next time it is not somebody we know personally that dies in a mass shooting. If this can happen at a military shipyard, then it can happen anywhere at any time.

    September 18, 2013 02:36 am at 2:36 am |
  9. Anonymous

    Omg no it would NOT have. Nothing short of a nation wide Confiscation could have possibly counter acted this shooting. Good luck with that.

    September 18, 2013 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  10. Pastor Paul c.

    It's a proof, that no nation or group of nations can defeat America. But the truth is hereby established that Americans will destroy their nation.

    September 18, 2013 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  11. Andrew Jollenmeyer

    Just like stricter background checks would stop someone killing their own mother and taking her guns and shooting up an elementary school?

    Or perhaps packing explosives into pressure cookers and blowing up a marathon?

    Stricter background checks will do nothing when it is trivial to change ones identity – - – the insane, evil ,and criminally motivated *will* find ways to hurt people – - – we need to find ways to treat mental illness at best, and respond **quickly** and lethally when things go wrong.

    There is little else to do, and further deconstructing the rights of people isn't the solution.

    September 18, 2013 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  12. the infidel

    If they "toughened" background checks, Jughead wouldn't be President!

    September 18, 2013 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  13. Joesense

    LOL, lets start with you Obama. Can we do a background check?

    September 18, 2013 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  14. yup

    of all the national media, he gives an interview to telemundo ... i guess it is answering to his constituents

    September 18, 2013 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  15. Sid Cheung

    Obviously we need more tougher checks on anyone buying an AR-15 Shotgun. You stay classy now, CNN!

    September 18, 2013 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  16. Sodapophead

    Over 1 million handguns are unaccounted for in New York alone. Tougher gun laws are not going to help these mass shootings. Crazy and pissed off people will do bad things to other people. It sucks.

    September 18, 2013 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  17. James Savik

    Yours FIRST Obama.

    September 18, 2013 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  18. n2it

    The focus should not be on gun control but how to address mental illness in the workplace.

    September 18, 2013 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  19. thesepretzelsaremakingmethirsty

    Black Market Dealer: "You lookin' for some heat?"
    Black Market Buyer: "Yeah, but I got a felony."
    Black Market Dealer: "It's cool, meet me in the alley...oh, and bring your ID so I can do a background check. Just wanna make sure you're clean, bro."

    September 18, 2013 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  20. larry

    I suggest that giving the military back their ammo and guns would have prevented some of the carnage. Also when are liberals going to address mental illness instead of guns ? We know why Communists want to disarm the public, but we don't know why they don't want to protect us from the dangerously mental ill. Right now the solution is to drug them and let them walk among us until they hurt someone. Also this could have been a white hate crime and part of Obama's race war. The black guy was collateral damage.

    September 18, 2013 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  21. Rick

    Yeah because heaven knows that AR15 he had caused a lot of damage....wait....he didn't have an AR15? But the NYT said he did.....oh wait....they changed their story to sound like he tried to purchase on in VA but was refused because of regulations that don't exist???? Imagine that....a news service that lies to push a progressive agenda.....

    September 18, 2013 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  22. Cheeky

    How about more support for those with mental issues...rather than a bunch of new laws.

    September 18, 2013 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  23. E. Snowden

    Right on cue, Mr. Obama reheats the war on the 2nd amendment.

    September 18, 2013 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  24. Toby Stell

    Increasing background checks is NOT an answer to the rising problem with gun deaths or violence. Purchasing a gun can be done by a law abiding citizen with a background check. It's not their record that needs to be scrutinized. What DOES need to be done, is psychological stability needs to be questioned. And unless the individual buying the gun has been committed to an institution, hospitalized or involved in psychiatric care by a doctor, they will not have records on that person. So, increasing background checks is not an answer. It is a liberal guideline that the government "thinks" will help reduce the amount of killings. It won't. End of story.

    September 18, 2013 04:36 am at 4:36 am |
  25. hamlet

    Yes toughen up the Top Secret and Military site background checks; how on earth did a person with multiple criminal entries on his record ever be able to get access to a military site of any kind.

    How did Hewlett Packard ever let him be hired on a vendor team to support our military.

    Now if that is the background check Obama is talking about I support him.

    September 18, 2013 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
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