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. southern white man

    Thank you Obama you have earned my vote. FOUR MORE YEARS!!!!!

    July 26, 2012 03:32 am at 3:32 am |
  2. RichardSRussell

    The 2nd Amendment was drafted by revolutionaries who had just won a war against the mightiest military force on the planet because their colonials were JUST AS WELL ARMED as the British lobsterbacks and their Hessian mercenaries. That's what "arms" means! If soldiers can have AK-47s, civilians should be able to have them, too.

    July 26, 2012 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  3. Anonymous

    I'm a soldier, and I own 2 AK47 rifles, 2 AR15 rifles, 2 M44s, an SKS, and many more. So does that mean I'm good?

    July 26, 2012 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  4. Max in AZ

    I believe that the first amendment means normal Americans should have the right to have a firearm to #1. Protect themselves and their families and #2. For hunting game to feed themselves and their families. 100 round magazines for a "military" weapon and the military weapon are beyond what the founding fathers were referring to.
    The "red necks" and the NRA are wrong! This whole thing is out of hand and needs to reeled in.
    The GOP argument is that if somebody really wanted to do something like what happened in Colorado and could not get their hands on the AK 47 with a 100 round mag. then they could just make a big bomb in their kitchen!? Does that make any since to anyone? Not me...

    July 26, 2012 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  5. zOOB

    Darn un-patrotic criminals using a Russian AK-47! They should use M16's when they go on mass murder splurges!

    July 26, 2012 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  6. steve

    Ak-47s are for soldiers, which is why we can't buy them. They are fully automatic, which a law was passed in the 1930's that does not allow people to own any automatic weapons. The "ak" he is referring to is something like a WASR 10, which cosmetically looks identical, but is semi-automatic. I'm all for the ban of full auto weapons, as it has been a law for 80 years, but banning a gun because it looks similar is just stupid.

    July 26, 2012 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  7. John Bleorg

    What prevents the government from declaring someone who disagrees as "mentally unstable". After all if you don't agree with bank bailouts you must be a mass murdering maniac.

    July 26, 2012 03:49 am at 3:49 am |
  8. Sirned

    The best regulation that should come out of this tragedy is the right for families to get their loved ones help even if their child what refuses it. No matter what the age of their child. There must be laws that empower families to put their loved ones in mental facilities for treatment. There must be long term care that's free and in every town. Families usually know something's wrong yet have no rights and can do nothing to protect their grown child from himself or his doing harm to others. Empower families with good mental health clinics, More help for families to commit them even against their will, and make it free....Family is the best tool we have in preventing the next mass murder.....Most parents know something is wrong long before a tragedy happens but can do nothing or do not know what to do. Let's change that.....

    July 26, 2012 03:50 am at 3:50 am |
  9. Jeff G

    I have to respectfully disagree with the president’s comments about the Ak-47, though I approve of his legal course of continuing to utilize our already effective laws that are in place. In reality there is no way to push different stricter laws through, and he knows it. And with the very low gun related crime rate, and the number of lives saved and crimes prevented by firearm ownership, there is no need to, there are many worse things that kill many more people every day.

    The problem is not gun control, that’s just a symptom of the problem- our social dysfunction as a nation, and failure to realistically handle everyday human problems like mental health with fairness and an open mind. This is the problem that causes people to get angry and violent, and allows people to snap or have a mental melt down without ever being noticed. How is it a smart young man who (by all accounts I have read) was on the path to success was able to come unhinged, and plan to kill people without anyone knowing? We don’t let our people safely channel their anger and rage, and let it build and simmer- that is the real dangerous weapon.

    Getting back to the president’s remarks: However the Ak-47 is not a very good soldier’s weapon, it is a weapon for the people, for civilians. Ask its designer- it was made for poorly trained civilians to use when pressed into the conscript armies of the USSR. The AK-47 is a universal symbol of freedom and liberty, allowing countless revolutions, deposing tyrants and despots, bringing democracy to millions of people. Don’t believe me? Look at Libya and Syria, or Romania, or any revolution in the last 50 years. Almost any time a people stood up against a brutal and murderous dictatorship, the AK-47 was there to give them power. It’s a weapon of the people- don’t try and take freedom and power from people.

    July 26, 2012 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  10. Family First

    Obama will use this incident as an excuse to force states to gather more data on average American citizens and to increase gun control until the whole country is like NYC, a police state. The real culprit is Carter who let all the crazies out of the mental wards, that's the main reason for these types of tragedies, not the availability of guns to people who want to use them to defend themselves and their families.
    In Obama's speech he also said we need more community organizers to help raise our children. What we've really needed for years is more fathers to help raise their own children. But the lib's have been at war with the traditional family, and men, for years, which is why most kids don't have their blood fathers in their lives like they used to.

    July 26, 2012 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  11. Chad

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2010, 10,228 people died in drunk driving crashes — one every 52 minutes — and 345,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes. So I think we should ban cars.

    July 26, 2012 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  12. Gozmuz

    The strongest opposition to gun laws should come from police. If I say I need to carry guns for safety, its basically a slap in the face of police and law enforcement machinery. Why are they comfortable ? Common sense anybody ?

    July 26, 2012 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  13. Drinnc

    Don't believe a word of it. Obama's real aim is to disarm the citizens of these united states, the better to control and the better to force us into subservience.

    July 26, 2012 04:04 am at 4:04 am |
  14. Lawrence

    Does everyone knows what happens when a bullet from a K-47 does when it enters the body. First a small hole is made in the skin, when it enters the body the bullet begins to tumble in mulct-directions along it's axis. There is where most of the damage occurs. This makes a small entry wound and a large exit wound. The higher the velocity, the higher damage. It's not the mass of the bullet but the velocity that does the most damage. This damage is called
    cavitation do to pressure wave.

    July 26, 2012 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  15. Anonymous

    key word, "Common sense" - I'm all for gun rights, but to be able to buy fully automatic weapons with thousands of ammunition is ridiculous.

    July 26, 2012 04:11 am at 4:11 am |
  16. evoxmaniac

    I'm a card carrying member of the NRA, but I do agree that it shouldn't be as easy as it is for some people to acquire weapons that are designed for killing other humans. Ak-47's and AR-15's are great firearms, but they really should be harder to acquire. And to those that argue that people can still get them – well, yes, but making it harder for people who go into a crisis or have psychological problems might just hold them up enough to get noticed.

    Either way, it's a tricky situation, balancing the Second Amendment with the responsibility to protect the public from people who would abuse such an idea.

    July 26, 2012 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
  17. larry

    The 2nd Amendment is so that American citizens can take arms against the government in the case of a president attempting to create a dictatorship, not for hunting and playing little games.
    We can't buy AK-47's without going through the National Firearms Act of 1934. We can only buy Semi-Automatic copies and they are not "Assault Rifles"..as an "Assault Rifle" must be select fire (a Machine gun) to adhere to the term. NO background check would have stopped this man, he was an honor student and a respected member of society until this incident.
    That's a lot coming from a guy who appointed an attorney general who thought it was a great idea to BYPASS those checks already in place and let crimminals buy guns via a straw purchase, with one of the guns ending up at the murder scene of a Border Partrol Agent.
    I suggest we have better back ground checks on politicians.

    July 26, 2012 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  18. rob breisch

    Its odd Obama says that about an AK47-the Colorado shooter used an AR15-american made! Just as deadly and an assault rifle designed for combat

    July 26, 2012 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  19. Anonymous

    AMEN! I own a gun but only soldiers need AK-47s! If you want to "play" with that type of gun, grow up and join the military!

    July 26, 2012 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  20. Bob

    Tighter gun laws will only infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, not criminals. If criminals want to hurt people, they will find a way, just like people who want to smoke weed will find a way.

    July 26, 2012 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  21. John anderton

    Like any criminal needs to get a background check to buy a gun. Unbelievably naive to think any gun law will be followed by anyone who will do whatever it takes to obtain a gun/explosives/edged weapon.

    July 26, 2012 04:31 am at 4:31 am |
  22. lies

    Ak47 are for soldiers or the citizens of Mexico according to Holder.

    July 26, 2012 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  23. Captain America

    "AK47s are for soldiers"?

    Don't know about that.

    But AR15s are for the militia, and that is you, me and every other law-abiding citizen of the US.

    The Second Amendment isn't about hunting ducks. It's about defending our homes, our communities and our nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

    July 26, 2012 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  24. sal

    Does anyone really care what he has to say anymore? As far as im concerned if people want to have ak-47's, let them have them. Theyre not hurting anyone. Criminals will always get their guns illegally anyways, so gun laws will not help anything, they will just make it harder for law abiding citizens such as myself to defend themselves. The government wants to disarm everyone so when they takeover there wont be any resistance to this, and most people today are too naive to see this and roll with the croud. Schools stress anti-gun policies and ideologies, and the cycle continues. I mean background checks are already enough, they prevent ANY person with ANY criminal background from getting ANY firearm. So mr obama, why dont u try to stop politicizing events for your favor and campaign, and focus on fixing the economy

    July 26, 2012 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
  25. dont be a sucker

    If this man holds office for another term, he WILL go after our guns, it's written all over his face


    Arm Up

    Molon Labe

    July 26, 2012 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
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