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

    I think stricter background checks as well as better documentation of felonly violence or armed robberies etc should be better maintained for these background checks. Also since guns are such an integral part of American culture, we should offer Gun Safety and Responsibility classes in High School to teach people what weapons are and how to utilize them.

    Even if we were to outlaw all the guns in America, Criminals would still get ahold of weapons and use them to harm the population. It is better to have a better educated population that at least know the responsibilities of the weapons and what to do in the event they find themselves under fire.

    September 17, 2013 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  2. Mike M

    I love how the background check argument goes back and forth. Before these incidents occur any increase in background checks by the government or other employers is immediately hammered by the ACLU and other groups as profiling. When they do happen, people get all upset on "why" there wasn't a stricter background check. Make up your minds, stick with it, and accept the consequences.

    September 17, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  3. Jojo

    Maybe but from I heard on the news is that the Delaware police warmed the navy about this guy and they did nothing. Could this be another example of PC stopping people from doing the right thing?. I wonder.

    September 17, 2013 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  4. buddymonster

    How would this been caught? We make a national database with everyone's medical history in it. Once that is accomplished we open the database to gun dealers, employees and the government? This would be Socialism to me!

    September 17, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  5. merlinfire

    The problem with going off what a psychiatrist says, is that it violates the concept of due process. An unelected psych can, with a wave of his hand and a stroke of his pen, curtail your civil rights. I'm not willing to give up my rights just because other people refuse to defend themselves from evil.

    September 17, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  6. Joe

    I think we should toughen the standards to become POTUS. A community organizer is not appropriate experience.

    September 17, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  7. bill

    just say NO to any new gun laws, we have enough already.

    September 17, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  8. OldSchool

    Just do it! Universal background checks! This is a no-brainer....

    September 17, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  9. noteasilyswayed

    The main issue is how this guy was able to smuggle the shotgun in there. Obviously, security measures must be increased. That was just too easy for him to accomplish.

    September 17, 2013 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  10. Jerry

    Tougher background checks will do nothing at all to stop the crazies. If a person wants or needs a gun badly enough, they will get one. Hell, many can just make their own: it ain't rocket science! Being unable to get a gun will just cause the crazies to go kamikaze with a small plane or a large truck or make IEDs, bio-toxins, or pesticide dispersal devices. Bottom line: a killer will always find a way and all we can hope is that there's someone there armed and able to put them down before attempt becomes success.

    September 17, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  11. Cnederbr

    Now he wants tougher background checks? If we actually did that in 2008, Owebama wouldn't be president.

    September 17, 2013 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  12. anon

    The left wants to ban guns so badly I wouldn't put it past them to stage these kinds of shootings.

    September 18, 2013 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  13. Ryan

    The government can't keep track of its own mentally ill service members when they have literally waived the red flag right in its face but thinks it can facilitate a national database of ALL US citizens. Priceless.

    Only the American government could continue to be so arrogant and out of touch with the reality of its tremendous shortcomings.

    September 18, 2013 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  14. Blue Dog

    OK, gun lovers can anybody tell me how to manage the chaos which could have occurred, if there were more people with concealed weapons and everybody is shooting around thinking of the other as the original shooter.
    This incident is a perfect illustration of that. One shooter turned into 3 based on multiple sightings from different perspectives.
    Real world is not a video game.

    September 18, 2013 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  15. Tim Barnett

    Criminals and the mentally ill don't do back ground checks. obama administration needs to get a handle on the same criminals and the mentally ill. example, we have neighbor obsessed with aliens from space attacking him with brain altering rayguns. He has rapped himself with tinfoil. Now he wants to buy a gun! All the authorities have been notified but sheriff says he has to commit a crime on someone where 911 can be called before they will act! We want him helped before he hurts or kills someone not after, but no way. There is all kinds of laws on the books already but they need to be used!

    September 18, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  16. Ed

    The problem in Congress is that instead of focusing on keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals, they can't resist larding their bills up with nonsense about pistol grips, magazine size, ammunition registration, and such. Virtually every one of the mass shootings in the past few years has involved someone who was dangerously mentally ill, under some form of treatment (or in the case of Aurora, Colorado – had been reported as dangerous to authorities who did nothing) and should have been banned from possessing firearms. This guy told the cops that he was hearing voices, thought people were beaming vibrations into him from a microwave device, and were sending him messages through hotel walls...but no one thought to do anything to see if he was buying guns? This tragedy was completely preventable.

    September 18, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  17. Steve Lyons

    How about we toughen the background checks on all elected and appointed officials.
    Make their ALL of their financial ties completely public BEFORE the elections and appointments.

    September 18, 2013 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  18. Jeff

    Seems to me that the one question we need to ask is – would tougher background checks have stopped this man from legally purchasing a gun? The answer is a resounding NO.

    Tougher background checks won't do anything. An insane person can have no prior police record before he/she decides to go crazy in a movie theater, or at a Naval base, or anywhere else.

    September 18, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  19. tom

    So no rabid marxist/fascist/lib/islamist going to spout about this guy passed two FED background checks at the Gun Shop where he bought this shotgun. It was NOT at a gun show ===where the marxist–in-charge says his "increase background checks" are needed. So how exactly would the bill of the "marxist-in-charge" have stopped this shooting? Please, any marxist/fascist/lib/islamists feel free to chime in.

    September 18, 2013 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  20. Kyle

    I love how the President suggest background checks. This man would have passed the background check anyway regardless. His criminal record (or lack of thereof) would have allowed him to get the weapon in the first place. In most states you don't need a background check for a shotgun anyway.

    September 18, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  21. Jon's

    It's not the background check system that's broke, its the reporting system. This guy should have never been allowed to buy a weapon based on his mental health. The 2004 incident is reason enough. When a man admits he fired a weapon in a blackout fit of rage, he should have been evaluated immediately and reported to mental health authorities. He was not. Then there was the incident 5 weeks ago that again allowed him to carry on after admitting to voices in his head. He should have been placed in protective custody and taken to a psychiatric ward for immediate evaluation. In both instances law enforcement had ample reason to detain him for a psych eval, yet it was not done. Laws exist for these kinds of circumstances that allow the police to detain someone for their own good. These officers did not do their job and it cost lives. Now we want to blame the NICS system? Had he been reported the first time he wouldn't have been allowed to purchase a weapon. Period. No matter how tough you make the background checks, if the reports are not made it makes no difference. What is going on in Obama's head that he wants to put this back on congress? Can he not stop the partisan bs for one minute? Geez us.

    September 18, 2013 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  22. Jeff

    Lindsey Graham is correct. Where is the accountability of ensuring the monitoring and "controlling", of security and policies already in place? The government is incapable of managing and enforcing that which is already in place, more regulations will not help anything. The politicians are spewing something out of their mouths that should be exiting the other end. Period. The Dems (liberals) have created a bleeding heart culture that holds no one accountable including government and criminals. This guy, in a liberal governed jurisdiction, committed a crime with a gun which he called an angry blackout episode and what does the liberal jurisdiction do? they let him back out onto the streets with full rights to purchase a gun. This is utter BS and you can thank the people in Seattle for this one.

    September 18, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  23. Ted T

    Senator graham of South Carolina is so far removed from logic, she should be skewered for her comments. Her conclusion to this tragedy is the hiring process at the Naval Yard is flawed? Is she saying the value of human lives at the Naval Yard are somehow worth more than the lives of people at, say, a food courtyard at any US mall where this shooting could have easily taken place? How would the 'hiring process' been to blame on a sick person opening fire from the mezzanine of a mall food court on random people? Unfortunately politicians are eschewing this opportunity to apply the logical demands of the people for stronger gun laws and more in depth background checks, in favor of maintaining an outdated constitutional right that stands to be made current to today's realities.

    September 18, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  24. old patriot

    Hey Barry – tougher would not have worked either. This is an example of where everything went wrong. This guy was hearing voices, shooting holes through his ceiling, discharged with a general discharge rather than and honorable discharge, with all that, he still got a gun. The previous issues with this man should have been on a central registry that would have brought up red flags when he tried to purchase the gun. But then after all – he did what Joe Biden suggested – don't use a rifle...just get a shotgun. You guys are such lame excuses for leaders of our country, it's unbelievable

    September 18, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  25. guest

    Background checks in and of themselves is not the answer. How can it be if you have mental issues and there is no way to check for that. It's been a federal law since 1968 that people adjudicated as mentally ill cannot own weapons. What have we done since 1968 to make sure those people are identified?

    You already have to fill out a 4473 to purchase a firearm. That is a background check. But how do you tie in mental stability checks? Therein lies the crux of the problem. It's not scary black AR-15's. As a matter of fact, it's not any of the guns. It's the people that use them for evil. Fix that problem and you will be on the road to something better. Our elected officials, for the most part, don't seem to grasp that.

    September 18, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
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