July 25th, 2012
09:51 PM ET
11 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. po

    he just lost my vote

    July 26, 2012 01:40 am at 1:40 am |

    WOW...I really had liked the man, he just lost my vote...

    July 26, 2012 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  3. Stan

    Romney says that we don't need to ban assault guns because people will be able to get them if they want. My answer to that is why make them easy to obtain. Any deterrent could make a difference in the future.

    July 26, 2012 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  4. C

    What is CNN going to do when Romney is elected? Nothing because it means that the majority of America does not care what you have to say/

    July 26, 2012 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  5. AD13

    He's absolutely right. There is absolutely no reason....none....that someone outside the military should have something like an AK-47 or other "assault" type weapon. My husband is a hunter and owns guns (for hunting and historical reenactment purposes...black powder recreation rifles from the 18th and 19th century) and he agrees. Firearms for hunting and firearms like small handguns for personal protection inside one's home I'm absolutely ok with as long as the owners are responsible and keep them away from children. Of course even non assault type weapons can be deadly in the wrong hands and will end up in the wrong hands from time to time, but it's much harder to initiate a massacre of the scale of the Aurora shooting with a hunting rifle or small handgun. The founding fathers never foresaw things like automatic weapons when they wrote the 2nd amendment and I think that needs to be taken into account.

    July 26, 2012 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  6. Jack

    1. Holmes did not use an AK-47
    2. AK-47's are already illegal to purchase
    3. US Soldiers do not use AK-47's

    July 26, 2012 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  7. TKH1957

    Once again, Obama hasn't a clue...the gunman in Colorado had an AR15...and none of our military uses AK-47's. If I need an AR15 for protection, than that's what I'll get. As soon as the government can guarantee my family's safety from bad guys I'll give up my guns...until that time, I will remain armed and vigilant.

    July 26, 2012 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  8. Bubba Rydell

    Well finally after four years he's come clean. He is for Gay Marriage and he is for Gun Control.
    Thank you for being honest....finally....Obama. You've helped me make a decision on my voting preference.
    Not that it will matter.....with the Electoral College overiding my vote.

    July 26, 2012 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  9. Joe R

    It's probably because he's afraid to say what he really thinks.

    Bumper Sticker: "Obama 2012: because everyone else deserves what you've worked hard for."

    July 26, 2012 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  10. chuck weidemann

    It's all about awareness!!! Who's buying and who's selling......register guns like a car each time they are bought or sold. As long as they are legal a problem will exist ....regulation and education are the only answers. When people become outraged by watching their sons and daughters die because this countries leaders refuse to stand up to the political pressures exerted allowing individuals to purchase machine guns,assault weapons and the like ....change will come!!!

    July 26, 2012 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  11. Bob

    Also, the second amendment also mentions a "well-regulated militia" in conjunction with the right to bear arms. (Arms being a musket, not a weapon that essentially replaces 100 old-fashioned minute-man)

    July 26, 2012 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  12. Greenspam

    Today Republicans rebut by saying that you need an AK-47 for hunting rabbits.

    July 26, 2012 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  13. Trevor

    "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."

    Obama's first statement is correct (but so obvious I can't believe he wasted his breath), but he's missing the point of why the vast majority of people that own assault weapons possess them. There is a difference between just a gun "owner" and an "enthusiast". All are "owners", and ONE of primary reasons they own them is for protection, but also for hunting. An "enthusiast" likes to shoot these assault weapons and THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH IT if done in a responsible manner, and 99.999% do. His second statement is a twisting of words..."the streets"? Mr. President, you mean in the hands of criminals? Well, last time I checked, criminals break the "law" and many times HURT PEOPLE, regardless of what the "law" says, and another "law" isn't going to deter someone bent on killing people. Don't tell responsible, law abiding citizens what type of "tools" belong where...if you want to go down that slippery slope about coupling "irresponsible behavior with certain "tools", then advocate for the banning of alcohol, sports cars, sport bikes, power boats and any other "machine" or "tool" out there that has hurt folks because people don't know how to be a "grown up"...

    July 26, 2012 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  14. davecu

    ""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. "

    How would Barry? He wouldn't put his life in jeopardy for anyone, unlike our soldiers.

    July 26, 2012 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  15. jbm66

    I think it is an ludicrous that i can go to a local shop and get a sub machine gun. If you want to keep a gun in your home for protection is one thing or a shot gun for hunting is another, but what the hell do people need sub machine guns except for one thing, to kill people indiscriminantly. I am sick and tired of the NRA, right wing nuts, and spineless democrats to even acknowledge that.

    July 26, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  16. BurstBubble

    It seems sort of strange to me that he mentions AK-47's instead of the AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16 used by our military. AK- 47's are used by many militaries throughout the world and terrorists. Seems to be preaching the minority rule, so people will be convinced. More gun control isn't the solution to this problem. Education is part of the solution and .... society willing to live healthier(physically, psychologically, Emotionally,and Socially) lives. Polarizing a country doesn't help. Politicians don't really want to solve problems otherwise they would be out of a job.

    July 26, 2012 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  17. Bill Breese

    One of the reasons for the popularity of the AR 16. the Civilian semi-automatic version of the M-16, is the familiarity of the weapon to thousands of past and present citizens who were trained by the US Military. Many of us who grew up around guns, shooting, hunting, and fishing. Some of us even took hunter safety classes in our schools. churches, and local community agencies. And almost all of us wouldn't think of using a weapon to harm another person even though we have the training and skill to do just that.
    What I find so frustrating, is the people who suggest that we control guns have never fired one, or certainly taken a safety course or served their country. And haven't earned a right to participate in the discussion.

    July 26, 2012 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  18. Gun control is hitting the proper target

    AK-47's are the preferred weapon of the American Soldier and makes it's own sound when fired at ya. A sound you never forget..If they made laws that were enforced for those who commit crimes with guns then the criminals wouldn't use them in the first place. Jail with no bail or chance of a plea bargain would go a long way towards making honest people out of criminals... Of course criminals never think about the consequences of their actions anyway.
    They all believe they won't get caught in the first place..If a crime is committed by a gun throw the key away period. No plea bargain they get what they deserve.

    July 26, 2012 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  19. idiots

    Keep in mind...you can never rid the streets of weapons...not possible...if u ban legal gun owners from possessing weapons such as AK-47's then your just allowing these illegal purchasers to run a muck all over everyone with their ILLEGA AK-47's....ban guns...regulate guns....I'll still have my unregistered full automatics....keep that in mind

    July 26, 2012 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  20. Gun control is hitting the proper target

    The American Soldiers enemy not the American soldier.Sorry about that.

    July 26, 2012 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  21. JoeArizona

    Yes, the NRA and GOP support the right of domestic terrorists, criminals, and drug lords to buy weapons of war that they then use to slaughter innocent Americans.

    July 26, 2012 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  22. Anonymous

    terrorists use AK-47

    July 26, 2012 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  23. McIver3

    As an American, one of the enumerated rights under the Second Amendment is to keep and bear arms. However, the Second Amendment does not specify what type of arms. Legal or illegal, criminals will continue to arm themselves with high powered weapons, including AK-47's. Therefore, I should have the right to buy whatever type of gun I want for my home defense, to be able to match the criminal's firepower. I live in a city but both of us are armed. Should there be a major calamity such as Katrina with looting and crime, etc., we will be prepared to defend ourselves and our home. If you restrict guns, the criminals will rejoice because they will always be able to get weapons.

    July 26, 2012 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  24. Mike

    If our government makes the American people have to bear arms against it, we will have our weapons.

    July 26, 2012 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  25. tuma

    Ak 47s are dangerous as are any gun, as is any car, truck, lighter, etc or any object where someone can use it as a weapon with intent to do harm.

    July 26, 2012 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
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