Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting
September 17th, 2013
07:11 PM ET
10 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. loops808

    CNN is so bias. Everytime there is an article about that president that can reflect negatively, CNN will do sound off. They do this so a mediator reading this can cherry pick mostly positive remarks. If there was no Sound Off, the comments would be overwhelmingly negative. Why does CNN feel the need to protect the president? As journalist, it is not CNNs job to be cheerleaders for this administration. They are to ojectively report the news and let the audience decide. Open the forum and let the readers voice be heard. If it's a Republican article, it's a no holds bar open forum. Stop the bias.

    September 17, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  2. sabre546

    The guy passes a security clearance background check by OUR Gov and they think a tighter background check for guns would have stopped this?

    September 17, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  3. sabre546

    The guy passes a security clearance background check by the Gov and they think a tighter background check for guns would have stopped this?

    September 17, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  4. Burt Ward

    Simple solution to many of these shooting. GUILTY WHILE INSANE. A person found innocent by reason of insanity has no conviction record. Their NCIC will show no prior entries on file. A gun shop can sell to them because all it takes is a simple lie on the form. GUILTY WHILE INSANE means they have a felony conviction for anything they do that constitutes a felony. I point to the case of Dr. Stephen Wolf of Nichols Hills, Oklahoma. He chopped and otherwise vivisection his son on the kitchen table and then when the police arrived and saw the horror, he said to them, "Hey boys, can one of you hold his head, I'm having some trouble beheading him." So, within the span of two weeks, an Oklahoma County judge ruled him, "totally and completely, utterly innocent of all charges by the reason of insanity." A year later, Dr. Wolf walked out of a treatment center with absolutely no criminal record. He can return to his medical practice, open up a daycare center, get a teachers license, and buy an ak-47 at a gun shop or gun show. He desperately needed GUILTY WHILE INSANE so that when he did walk out a free man, he has the felony conviction to protect his neighbors for the day he goes off his meds and kills more people.

    September 17, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  5. sabre546

    The guy passes a security clearance background and they think a tighter background check for guns would have stopped this?

    September 17, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  6. C.S.

    From all the reports I've read so far this man was a paranoid schizophrenic. He told people that he was hearing voices and that microwave beams were being shot through the walls into his brain. He claimed that teams of men and women were being sent to follow him and hurt him. He called Police and asked for help because of the voices in his head. He was being treated by Veteran's Affairs psychiatrists for what has been described as "serious mental illness" to include "hearing voices."

    There are already procedures in place to keep men like this from buying guns. The reason this man passed a background check is because neither the Policeman he begged for help nor the psychiatrists treating him bothered to take the time to have him involuntarily committed and declared incompetent or criminally insane. You can't expect a background check to work if necessary information isn't put into the system. Everyone who knew this man realized that he was insane yet no one took the necessary steps to have him hospitalized and effectively treated. There were numerous safeguards in place to prevent this tragedy from happening. Unfortunately those who had a legal obligation to stop this man refused to do so. The NCIS background check system isn't to blame here – those who refused to take the steps they were legally and morally obligated to pursue are the ones to blame. A court ruling declaring him to be incompetent or insane or an involuntary commitment would have resulted in this man failing a background check and being unable to purchase a firearm. Since no one in authority felt like doing their job that didn't happen.

    September 17, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  7. Michael

    There is a noticeable trend with this president to not speak to, or say the wrong things, or nothing at all to the American people and media, and sound sensitive, smart and seem to say the right things to foreign people and media. Just earlier today, the news was that the president and his administration sounded "tone deaf" yesterday during his Monday event. He only briefly mentioned the shooting, and then proceeded to mention his own economic accomplishments and chide Reps. for the pending Gov't shutdown. Now, he says exactly what the American people want from him, but to foreign media. The president and the administration need to take a hard look at how he is perceived by a good majority of people in the US at this point, and fix it. He could start by saying the right things at the right time to the right people.

    September 17, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  8. James

    DC has some of the most draconian gun laws in the nation. Criminals don't follow laws. His background check and 2 gun incidents should have removed his security clearance. But it is the Government, no accountabilty.

    September 17, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  9. Mark Negie

    Tougher background checks? For whom, military contractors?

    September 17, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  10. oracularman

    Dear President,

    Unfortunately, the reason for majority of the people not wanting gun control is plainly because many people downstream in our society have adopted the quid pro quo culture of giving the appearance of working hard but having enough time to drink, watch TV everyday and get to keep their jobs with a salary that meets their wants instead of needs . Very few are really working hard as the forefathers did or the generation of McCain or Kerry did. Everyone is now just trying to enjoy a loooong working vacation at the expense of smartly using English and education rather than experience and knowledge to make US better. It is 9 to 5 culture now. It is also because the hard working educated class has all but decided to be self-centered and have forgotten the role they need to play in the society. Even doctors are self-centered now. Sad but true. I hope this upcoming generation of new teens will bring about the change that USA desperately needs. Hopefully after the depression in 2014 that the Republicans will influence and put into action.

    A U.S Citizen.

    September 17, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  11. nomad2003

    The DSS is a department of the DoD. Seems like there has been two clearance checks that failed... This guys was cleared by them in July.... .But of course Obama will follow the same practice and no one will be fired for this...
    if it was not for the changes in liberty (by the liberals) in RI he would have been taken to a hospital, the shriek on duty would have committed him for two weeks. But now this is not done.

    September 17, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  12. Jay

    “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."

    Mental health is privileged information so a background check is pointless as far as that point is concerned.

    September 17, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  13. Military not trusted?

    President Obama turns every tragedy into a political opportunity. It's so tiring.

    A guy who had an honorable discharge from the military who had a top secret clearance who the government was treating for mental issues kills people. Just proves it that you can trust the large government bureaucracy to screw it up.

    September 17, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  14. Paul

    This guy had a freaking security clearance!!! I don't think a lack of a background check was the problem here!

    September 17, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  15. Jay

    “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.

    Mental health is privileged information so a background check is pointless as far as that point is concerned.

    September 17, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  16. Jim37015

    Don't go there Obama. You've been there with dead children as your rally point and it didn't go anywhere. So don't think government workers shot by a gov. contracted disgruntled worker will go any further.

    September 17, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  17. Myke

    "More vigorous" background checks does not stop a criminal from committing a crime.

    Again, CNN not talking about the medication this guy was on.

    September 17, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  18. Some new ideas please...

    So great, Obama's going to give guns to the rebels in Syria, knowing as our senators say that some of them are terrorists and ""Our intelligence agencies, I think, have a very good handle on who to support and who not to support," says Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "And there's going to be mistakes. We understand some people are going to get arms that should not be getting arms."

    But Americans here at home need more gun control.

    September 17, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  19. Natrldiver

    If someone wants to get a weapon either through legal or illegal means to commit atrocities like Columbine, Newtown, and most recent the Navy Yard, they will acquire them. Stronger background checks will only keep the honest people honest. Since when does a criminal or suicidal assailant follow the laws regarding public safety?

    What the Washington left wants is a strategic reduction in arms and limitations of ammunition to the public. Feinstein would rather disarm America as a whole. With all the political talks for more restrictions and limitations to the public for the so-called assault weapons and here we have a guy who took basic firearms and did significant damage. So, to all the anti-gun nuts out there. How would one propose this be tackled without infringing on the 2nd amendment rights?

    Sure we can put more laws for purchasing weapons in place but we already know how that will go. Sure we can put limitations on magazine capacity, but how would the government enforce such a law without inciting a nationwide riot? The reality is that there is nothing Washington can do to stop the tragedies. People will snap and if they have the will and means, they will do harm with what ever tools they can acquire.

    My argument is that Washington cannot stop the tragedies. Not without taking complete control and ignoring the constitution with its amendments that we as citizens hold dear.

    September 17, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  20. Lone wolf

    This is what happens when you put security clearances in the hands of subcontractors. Stop using sibcontractors and go back to using government employees!, need to find out why the Navy contracted this out and who this company was connected with! Specifically, what politician were they associated with. How many more bad applies have been given security clearance??

    September 17, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  21. John J.

    Sure is a good thing we aren't confusing a mental health crisis with a gun problem. Oh, wait.

    September 17, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  22. Bob Hope's Ghost

    this president needs to shut up. the background checks in place are good enough, but the FBI is not enforcing them. Blame the FBI, not the gun owners.

    September 17, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  23. Bee lade

    How bout we toughen not letting weapons fall into the hands of druggies and criminals.

    COUGH

    Fast and Furious.

    September 17, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  24. martin

    Implement tougher background checks? How about indicting those who should have checked the shooter’s background correctly? How about firing the company that was responsible for the background check? How about reprimanding all guards who came in contact but didn’t check the shooter’s bag? How about some common sense?

    September 17, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  25. Bill

    I thought guns were banned in DC? How would tougher background checks help when guns are banned in the first place?

    September 17, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
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