July 25th, 2012
09:51 PM ET
8 years ago

Obama takes on gun violence in New Orleans speech

(CNN) - Days after the Colorado movie theater massacre, President Barack Obama on Wednesday forcefully spoke out against gun violence, making perhaps some of his strongest comments yet as president on the issue.

While the president said he stands by the Second Amendment and recognizes the traditions of hunting and gun ownership in the country, he told a crowd at a gathering for the National Urban League in New Orleans that there is work left to be done in tackling the problem.

"I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals," Obama said. "That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

The president has largely steered away from talking about gun laws. While he visited the families of victims in Aurora, Colorado on Sunday, he did not wade into the political debate over gun legislation that dominated national dialogue over the weekend.

Talk of gun rights was also largely absent from Obama's speech in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting in 2009 and after then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot in Tucson, Arizona, last year. The president mentioned gun safety only in passing after the Tucson shootings to describe the polarizing nature of the issue.

Two months later, he wrote an op-ed outlining a plan that included enforcing existing laws and rewarding states that provide the best data about gun owners. But until Wednesday, he had mostly refrained from making public comments about the issue.

On Wednesday, however, Obama emphasized a need for background checks and the prevention of "mentally unbalanced" individuals from obtaining guns. He faulted opposition in Congress for lack of progress made in reducing violence.

"These steps shouldn't controversial. They should be common sense," Obama said, though without elaborating too specifically on measures of enforcement.

"We should leave no stone unturned and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe," he added.

Speaking aboard Air Force One as the president flew Sunday to meet with families of those killed, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama did not have plans to push for new legislation in light of the Colorado shooting.

"The president's view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law. And that's his focus right now," Carney said, adding it was too early to determine how the issue would play in the election.

Obama's silence on gun rights in the days after Aurora caused some critics to question the president's position on the issue. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday pointed to Obama's 2008 campaign promise to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons.

"The president has spent the last three years trying to avoid the issue, or if he's facing it, I don't know anybody that's seen him face it," Bloomberg said on CBS News, also calling on Mitt Romney to lay out his vision to reduce gun violence.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said Monday that he also saw no need for new laws and reiterated those comments on Wednesday, saying a change in legislation won't stop those who truly want to do harm.

"I don't know that I'm going be able to find a way to prevent people who want to provide harm from being able to purchase things that can carry out that harm. What I want to do is find the people that represent a danger to America and find them and keep them from having the capacity to use or buy things that can harm or hurt other people," Romney said in an interview with NBC News.

Obama on Wednesday, echoing similar refrains, said that government can only do so much in terms of preventing violence.

"Even as we debate government's role, we have to understand that when a child opens fire on another child, there's a hole in that child's heart that government alone can't fill," the president said Wednesday, stressing the role of families, teachers and community leaders in the upbringing of children.

- CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin and CNN White House Producer Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • President Obama
soundoff (703 Responses)
  1. voodkokk

    "I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals," Obama said. "That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

    --------

    So what does this have to do with law abiding citizens.

    July 26, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  2. paulm5545

    "On Wednesday, however, Obama emphasized a need for background checks and the prevention of "mentally unbalanced" individuals from obtaining guns."

    Gee, no kidding. We have those safeguards in place already, Mr. Obama. Based on what I've read so far on the shooter, I'm going to guess that if a background check had been done, no red flags would have arisen. I haven't read anything so far that would indicate a potential for violence. He is educated and bright. And those that are indeed mentally unbalanced will find a way to obtain a weapon. Ban all guns? Yeah, I'm sure all the criminals will abide by that law, too.

    July 26, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  3. Peter

    My God, even Bill O'Reilly came out for stricter monitoring of the purchase of military-style weapons and large amounts of ammunition by a single individual.

    Romney actually thinks there should be NO change AT ALL in our current laws? Really?

    He says we have to find these unstable individuals. Don't you think a good idea (suggested by O'Reilly...not some "Lib") would be a computer database of ammo purchase and when someone gets to, oh I don't know, 60,000 rounds, maybe that's A CLUE that they MIGHT have some BIG SPREE planned?

    July 26, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  4. Chris

    Even if the Colorado shooter had a background check, they more than likely would have let him purchase a weapon. Nothing in his background showed that he would do something like this. That being said, the fact that people want more gun control against people like him is null and void. Mr. President isn't my favorite candidate, but I will say that AR type weapons belong in the hands of the military and not to civilians. I say if you can't take it down with a mid caliber rifle, a .45 handgun, or a few shots of buckshot, you don't need the weapon. I also think that more Americans need to arm themselves. Criminals will think twice about causing harm when they know that bullets will be flying back at them.

    July 26, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  5. Name abel

    AK s 47 are for sopldiers? Why the Obama admministration send those guns to the Mexican Cartel some thing is wrong with this people

    July 26, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  6. Sam

    Sad to say, it's a game of "oneupmanship". As my boss says, "bigger is better". The first guy will get a gun that holds 10 rounds. His friend will get a gun that holds 20 rounds, and it continues to grow. It's the American way, and it doesn't look like it's going to change.

    July 26, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  7. Jason

    Does this mean we're scrapping M-16s in favor of Chinese and Russian AK-47s for our soldiers?

    July 26, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  8. Erik

    In times of crisis, average Americans are soldiers. We learned after hurricane Katrina that you cannot always rely on police.

    July 26, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  9. Jeff

    Actually, I don't believe they belong in the hands of either. I would love a world without guns and violence, I'm just smart enough to realize that will never happen. II also dont believe that an inanimate something should be prohibited from me because someone else misuses it.

    If that is the case, I believe all cars should be fitted with an ignition interlock device. About 20% more people are killed on an average year by drunk drivers than firearms, and I think we can all agree on the fact that it is far more likely that the majority of the population will slip up and have one too many drinks one night, accidently killing someone, than going off on a murderous rampage with a firearm, no?

    July 26, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  10. jay

    This country will do what it always does about some problem like this one - NOTHING!

    July 26, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  11. TheTruth

    And so our government moves one step closer to taking away more of our rights.

    July 26, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  12. joe

    RICHARD HENRY LEE

    "A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves ... and

    include all men capable of bearing arms."

    Richard Henry Lee – Senator, First Congress

    "To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess

    arms..."

    July 26, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  13. Navin Johnson

    I agree. I can't think of any good reason why a normal citizen would need an AK-47. Except to shoot up a crowded movie theatre and kill as many people as possible.

    July 26, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  14. Kevin

    The biggest problem we have with legal/sane firearms ownership is that sane people can become insane. How do you intercept someone who has gone insane and becomes intent on harming others? Also, insanity, whatever that is, can violently affect people in many ways -not just firearms, so please people, start searching for a solution here that leaves those of us who are still sane from being infringed.

    July 26, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  15. DevilDogOz

    'There's a hole in that child's heart that government alone can't fill'... So I'm curious if he bothered to address the issue of fatherless families at the National Urban League?

    July 26, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  16. ThoughtfulAmerican

    There is just one thing about this article that scream issues. The rifle used in Colorado was a AR-15, not a AK-47 big difference.

    July 26, 2012 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  17. woodsa1

    AK-47 are weapons that was used to kill American soldiers, I know, I served in the US Army.

    July 26, 2012 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  18. John The Electrician

    "we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe" There he goes again-President-

    July 26, 2012 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  19. Sam Adams

    "Military[style" rifles belong in the closets and gun-racks of every American.

    The Second Amendment has nothing to do with "sporting purposes," with hunting or breaking clay pigeons. The Second Amendment is about the right - and the duty - of every American to be a soldier, a member of a militia defending his home, his community and his country.

    July 26, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  20. lovetheusaorleave

    Yeah Ak-47's are for soldiers, but not American soldiers they are in the hands of enemy soldiers. Maybe if the President spent more time visiting the American Military he would know this. That would of course interupt his golfing, apologizing and his best job which is campaigning.

    July 26, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  21. Brendan

    If that's the case, why does every gun control law proposed or passed allow police officers to have these so-called "weapons of war"? It's worth pointing that there are few, if any, AK-47s in possession of the average citizen. The 1968 Gun Control Act banned importation of NFA weapons for 'civilian' use. This would preclude importing automatic rifles like AK-47s. The 1990 Assault Weapon Import Ban (not to be confused with the 1994 ban that expired) bans importing SEMI-automatic firearms that don't have a "sporting purpose"-this would preclude importing semi-automatic variants of AK-47s. The 1986 ban on new machine guns in the hands of average citizenss precludes converting a semi-automatic variant of the AK-47 into a machine gun.

    What we're left with are semi-automatic firearms that fire the same cartridge as an AK-47 made partially or entirely in the US. It becomes about looks and not functionality. The AR-15 fires the same cartridge as numerous wood stocked firearms used for hunting small animals, they're sometimes called 'varmint rifles'.

    If "assault" (ie., mean looking) semi-automatic firearms are weapons of war that don't belong on the street, what does say about the possession by the police of fully automatic versions of these firearms? Surely they are also "weapons of war" and should be removed from the possession of the police as well.

    July 26, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  22. Jen

    Agee 100% !!!! AK 47 belong in the hands of the military and the police not sold in sporting good shops to anyone off the street just because they have a c.ean record!!!! . Same goes with body armor.

    July 26, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  23. Whatever

    An AK-47 wasn't even used in the attack in aurora, also i don't think our troops use AK-47's..

    July 26, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  24. Sam Adams

    "Military-style" rifles belong in the closets and gun-racks of every American.

    The Second Amendment has nothing to do with "sporting purposes," with hunting or breaking clay pigeons. The Second Amendment is about the right – and the duty – of every American to be a soldier, a member of a militia defending his home, his community and his country.

    July 26, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  25. chriss221

    AK-47 rifles are soviet-invented, russian made weapons used by terrorists the world over. They have probably killed more US troops than any weapon. None of our armed forces use these weapons. What "soldiers" is he talking about? As usual, profoundly off course.

    July 26, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
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