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. Milton Cooper

    Gang Stalking is a systemic form of control, which seeks to control every aspect of a Targeted Individuals life. Gang Stalking has many similarities to workplace mobbing, but takes place outside in the community. It called Gang Stalking, because the target is followed around and placed under intrusive and directed surveillance by groups of organised "Covert Human Intelligence Sources" also known as Citizen Informants 24/7. Using anti-terror laws to spy on ordinary people. Aaron Alexis was gang stalked.

    September 17, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  2. msmarlene

    "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."
    That's pretty humorous. Don"t the citizens of Mexico live in the same sort of situation? The problem here lies with mental health and the VA. The guy needed help and didn't get it. Then there's always the question of how he passed a background check for his security clearance. Nothing seems to work well within the federal government.

    September 17, 2013 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  3. Steve

    Can a Liberal/Obama supporter explain how "more background" checks would have prevented this? The guy was a contractor for the US NAVY!!! If libs are serious about gun control then add in mental health records.

    September 17, 2013 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  4. aiquoy

    Such background checks only affect those who go about obtaining arms legally. I am all for it though, considering the Aurora Shootings, Sandy Hook shootings and Navy Yard shootings were perpetrated by killers who obtained their arms legally.
    However it is true that because of the Military's No-Gun policy, Mr. Alexis was uncontested and able to freely reign death and injury upon his intended victims.
    The Trolley Square shooting, however, was cut short when an armed off duty officer killed the perpetrator. If he was not there the shooter would have undoubtedly killed more people. There are more than enough cases where an armed individual diffused the situation, but that wouldn't be a good case for those in media who are against guns. They will never show you something that contradicts their own goals, regardless if the outcome is beneficial to the public.

    September 17, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  5. ryan

    Obamas goverment dropped the ball on this security clearance. Plain and simple. Own up Obama!

    September 17, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  6. FubarObama

    What a stupid comment

    September 17, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  7. plopps

    Which part of the gunman LEGALLY purchased this gun and HAD A BACKGROUND check done is not clear? This shooter had a security clearance, which he had to have a background check for, given to him by this administration. This shooter purchased a SHOTGON, just like Joe Biden told everyone is all they need, in Virginia and passed a background check to get the gun. The only gun(s) this shooter did not have a background check for was the pistol and rifle he took of the dead/wounded people he shot.
    Stop with the "we need more background checks" BS. He had his background checks and passed. What would have stopped this murderer from knocking out the first guard with a fist/bat/hammer/etc..and taking his pistol just like he did?

    September 17, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  8. Nimby

    Actually, what America really needs is a bleeding-heart for its own people with a grounded administration rife with common sense. Yet another charming example of liberal "Homeland Security", and it keeps getting more ridiculous as time goes on. Now let's queue up more pictures of Syrian children; America is perfectly safe and sound with no issues at all. There's nothing to see here.

    September 17, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  9. Corey

    Obviously, a man who killed 12 innocent people had "mental health problems," so that point is moot. But the fact is we must use a multi-pronged approach to curb our nation's violence issue. The fact of the matter is that we like to think we can affect change by controlling tangible, material things, because they're easier to understand and to talk about. But if we're ever really going to stop things like this, the whole culture needs to be shifted: our glorification of violence, our treatment and stigmatization of the mentally ill, how and when we should talk about tragedies like the one that happened earlier this week–these are things that need to be attacked in addition to, NOT instead of, gun control.

    September 17, 2013 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  10. Nan D

    Is the President serious?
    They shooter was a Navy vet. Exactly how much more background do we need to check?

    Or does he mean that government needs to monitor your daily activities?

    September 17, 2013 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  11. mjportolani

    President Obama said (and I quote) "“The fact that– we do not have a firm enough background-check system" (end quote).
    I submit that in the US Background investigation system we have essentially two types: 1) civilian based (Non-Gov't personnel); and 2) Department of Defense (DoD) – Office of Personnel Management (OPM) based. While I cannot speak to the non-Gov't based system I CAN speak to the the other. I have continuously had a SECRET or higher security clearance since 1973, which entailed periodic reviews of that clearance every five years. Additionally, I have personally conducted hundreds of Personal Security Clearance Background Investigations (PSI). In its pure sense, the PSI system has protocols in place that are meant to identify personal security issues such as arrest records, financial problems, mental/physical health, foreign travel to include regular contact with foreign nationals and much more. The problems with the PSI system are time and money (gee, imagine that). The conventional wisdom is that it costs approximately the US Gov't approximately $25,000 or more to conduct each full phased PSI. It was only a few short years ago, that just the OPM alone claimed that they had a "backlog" of more than a !,000,000 investigations! The pressure on their (rather low paid) Government employed investigators to close cases was huge. Then, when the US Gov't chose to add "Contractor" Investigators to help with the overload, that just exacerbated the situation. Most contractors were/are paid on a "piece work" type basis. That concept fostered the concept of "quantity vs. quality". Anyway, I won't take up space by expanding on all this. I suspect that most of you will get the message. At what point do we balance absolute personal security with acceptable sacrifice of freedoms and monetary expenditure? Emotions notwithstanding: do the math. God Bless us all.

    September 17, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  12. sac

    Damn its that someone does sonething about our background check

    September 17, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  13. Rowdy1

    Mandated reporting of psychotic episodes by employees with response by employer such as is currently with addiction or traumatic injury.. Job guaranteed and time in counseling program before returning to work. Treat mental illness like a broken leg. Get rid of the stigma.

    September 17, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  14. Bjorn Bjornsen

    Right ... legal citizens have to go through a background check to purchase a gun, but illegal immigrants don't have to do any sort of a background check to get a license to drive a 1500 pound lump of steel that can travel at 100+ mph. Makes perfect sense ...

    September 17, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  15. Mike

    He bought his gun at a store with a background check. How could it have stopped him?

    September 17, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  16. rjsenterp

    Wrong again Obama. He had no documented history of mental illness. The military, even though there were issues with him, gave him a security clearance and the necessary credentials to enter the base. Where were the security guards? Blame the lax military security protocols, not law abiding gun owners.

    September 17, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  17. dc

    #1 – What gun did he buy that would have been prevented with a background check?
    #2 – He used a shotgun, not an AR-15
    #3 – Why can't gun control advocates keep it honest?

    September 17, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  18. Johnny5

    I wouldve liked a tougher background check on Obama. We know NOTHING about our own president since he spent millions sealing his own records but we are expected to heed his advice and laws. This man is a danger to everything we've worked and fought for past and present. When people lose everything, the lose it.

    September 17, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  19. brite

    My thoughts are all the redric about guns does not one bit of good. It does not solve any problems. The problem I keep hearing over and over is People all over do not understand the signs of mental illness, which is vast in our society. The answer to this inform the public of what mental illness is, show how this ilness plays out, and the concequences of it, if nothing is done. Also give people the answers of what do do. Give people instuctions that will work if they try to help such a person. I feel there are certain people recognize it but do not know, what to do, or have tried to help but have met a great deal of resistance tring to help, therefore they give up.
    Mental illness is not retardation that is a totally different subject in most people.

    September 17, 2013 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  20. Doesnttakearocketscientist

    Maybe they should make that place the shooting happened a gun free zone too???? DUH, can't fix stupid.

    September 17, 2013 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  21. Zwei Stein

    Any adult, with even a modicum of intelligence, would/should appreciate and value a thorough background check for anyone purchasing a gun from any source!

    September 17, 2013 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  22. Stang05

    Unless arrests and subsequent dismissals are entered into the system, no backround check will find them. Unless mental health problems (and what is defined as a bad enough problem) are documented and entered in a functioning system no backround check will find them. Making more gun laws is meaningless unless we actually enforce the ones that are currently on the books.

    September 17, 2013 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  23. Petunia

    Overpopulation is the root cause.
    Liberal mollycoddling of coconuts doesn't help either.

    September 17, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  24. DaveW

    America gets the laws it deserves. Colorado state legislators are recalled for enacting common-sense background checks (an idea supported by about 90% of the overall U.S. population) and magazine clip limits of 15 rounds. We have become gun-drunk. While other nations laugh at us, we act as if we can do nothing about it. Our Constitution, the very instrument that was supposed to enshrine our freedoms and rights has us locked in a cerebral straight-jacket of 2nd amendment stupor.

    September 17, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  25. won

    it won't work.

    September 17, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
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