Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting
September 17th, 2013
07:11 PM ET
7 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. Buddha

    Yeah, great.

    “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.

    You do realize the reason he had mental health problems was likely because

    A) The Military has failed miserably in it's ability to diagnose and treat these people (mostly do to budget cuts)

    B) In general as a country we have allowed mental health issues to become normalized as something you simply take a pill for and move on from. There is no "treatment" there is a valium every now and then and a day at the spa.

    You realize only the United States and New Zealand are the only countries that allow Big Pharma to sell pills to the public through commercials, right?

    No, That can't possibly be the issue.

    Make the gun laws stronger and the crazy will go away on its own. It couldn't possibly be the government or society, we're perfect, we're strong, we're the proud and the brave and fighters and pushers, and doers, and BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    This country went to the dogs and the dogs have rabies.

    September 17, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  2. jlacke

    He also passed the background check to get a secret clearance, one that should be quite strict. The government failed at that, so why would I have confidence that anything further on background checks for a gun purchase would be effective?

    September 17, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  3. Franklin Reese

    Tragedy must be followed by political posturing. Not fact finding, or information gathering, but immediately try to push your agenda.

    The navy yard was already a gun free zone, this man was a contractor for the Navy. We need tougher background checks right?

    September 17, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  4. What in the world

    Just make it law all states are required to report to the national system.....
    It seems the states that have had these massacres are all non national reporting states.... Go figure Feinstein.... Cali is one of them....So is Connecticut... So is New York... they all feel their system is bettter

    September 17, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  5. Zondar

    If Obama is ready to take on the ACLU to get mental health data in the NICS background check system, I don't think any gun owner is against that. However if he's going to bring up the "universal" background check system again – why? This person bought a gun from a gun store – not from another individual. The check went through the system.

    The system didn't have enough data in it. So put it in.

    September 17, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  6. Jester4477

    WTF would have background checks done to prevent this?!? The guy had a military security clearance...should it have been revoked? Yes, but it wasn't! GTFO with these idiotic ideas...gun control isn't working - in fact gun control is how this shooting became so deadly in the first place. Had we not disarmed service members on their own military base, the bloodshed could have been minimized, if not outright avoided. After the 2009 Ft. Hood incident, the Clinton-era gun ban on military bases should've been rescinded...and as far as I'm concerned, there's blood on the Administration's hands for not acting to correct that situation after that event. When are we going to learn that violence is a societal problem...you can't simply legislate it away...and every time that they try to, they make situations like this even more deadly. Legally disarming everyone except a handful of police and the criminals who don't care how many laws, bans, or "No Gun" signs are in place, you create killing fields...it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Why the hell can't people understand that?!?

    September 17, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  7. thedude

    You kidding me? This guy had a secret security clearance, no gun background check is going to be more thorough than that!

    September 17, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  8. commonsense

    You cannot toughen background checks without also making available mental health records.

    September 17, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  9. Dr Keith Korthals

    To President Obama,
    Stop the oppression of the poor and the citizens. Maybe the shottings will stop. People are frustrated and afraid and don't know what to do. Laws are becoming more and more oppressive. Violence is not the solution....unclear what people are thinking but as the laws become more oppressive the responses will become more violent.

    September 17, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  10. Jason

    There will be no stricter restrictions. Any attempt to do so may result in Civil War.

    We are not fooled by your tricks Obama, and Feinstein.

    September 17, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  11. HomeBoy

    More dribble from the empty suit. Looking good, leroy.

    September 17, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  12. Chris wood

    This isn't about background checks. Supposedly sound people can flip a switch anytime. Where was the security that allowed a rifle to not only enter base, but hallways? Common sense should have have stopped and asked purpose?

    September 17, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  13. DaveinIL

    Obama is clueless. The shooter had a Federal security clearance to get on the base. Does Obama think that a state firearm check will turn up more than a federal security check. If true, that's a pretty sorry state of affairs.

    September 17, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  14. Phil Hersey

    Oh yeah, deeper background checks will solve everything...except he had a secret clearance and yet was getting mental health treatment for PSYCHOSIS , AND local Rhode Island police had already alerted the Navy about his potential violence... ha hah ahhahahhahahha. What.... everyone who sees a mental health counselor goes on the "no buy" list?

    September 17, 2013 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  15. Ed

    This individual not only had security clearance to a military facility, but he legally purchased a weapon after going through a background check. Making this latest tragedy into a political push for gun control is just dishonest and shameless.

    September 17, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  16. Colin

    “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."

    Or... I don't know... Maybe a bad mental health system? Since he was UNDIAGNOSED, background checks wouldn't have stopped him.

    September 17, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  17. UpsetVoter

    It would be helpful if laws were not too complex for normal people to understand and it would be helpful if the current laws were enforced. Currently congress is only creating laws to hear themselves speak and to confuse the general public.

    September 17, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  18. John Balbi

    Please impeach this President. He is not fit to lead this country.

    September 17, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  19. ratherbboating

    You never let a serious crisis go to waste.

    September 17, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  20. Jake

    Yeah I'm sure that background checks would have prevented an honorably discharged member of the Navy with secret clearance from purchasing a shotgun. Maybe instead of trying to use this as a political opportunity our President should encourage the Navy to conduct a security audit in order to find out how this man brought a firearm into a secure zone.

    September 17, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. GubnitSPY

    take away the guns and give out free healthcare especially for the psychologically challenged ex-gun owner who will be detoxing and wetting them self.

    September 17, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  22. works4me

    It seems that the only ones concerned or afraid of comprehensive checks are the ones that need to be.

    September 17, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  23. A. Lothaniel

    Gung, guns, guns, an orgy of guns for these fearful, ignorant, gun lovers. Gotta shoot me deers. Watch out the big bag US government is going to enslave us all and your small rag tag stash of weapons is gonna hold back the US Army. Let's arm everybody. The culture described above is a bleedoff of a very fearful, ignorant, macho, "I'm a big man" old line of thinking. Just maddening at the ignorance of the gun slobs.

    September 17, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  24. Bill Smells

    In order to have tougher checks, you'd need to allow access to personal healthcare information and records. This is a HIPAA violation and is considered privileged information between healthcare provider and patient.

    There are a whole bunch of laws in place that would need to change on the healthcare side to allow this to happen. Most Democrats are opposed to doing this, so the President has an uphill battle with his own party to accomplish this. Also, I'm sure there are several lobbying groups that will give him grief, and the NRA probably won't be one of them.

    September 17, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  25. Mark

    The Republicans can't say that "more guns" would have prevented this shooting. The Navy has plenty of guards with machine guns!!!

    September 17, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
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