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. 0rangeW3dge

    See there? How can a serious candidate say something like military weapons are for the military? There's something fishy about that, don't you think? I bet it's a plan to "take away our guns",,,,ssshhhhh,,,did I just hear something? ...better stop blogging now

    July 26, 2012 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  2. sam matthew

    I agree with the president, the AK-47 belongs to soldier in the battle field, same goes for M-15 or 16. Civilain can have shot gun, hunting gun, hand gun, .22 cabin, something not the same powerful as military people have

    July 26, 2012 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  3. Edward Hall

    That could cause Martial law, I afraid.How many already have an Ak-47?Remember it broils down to anything can be used as a weapon..Wow Maryland has a no knock warrant.Remember that woman was able to web at age 15 &16.I 'm no pedophile.Plant can't live without food and water,you know what i mean?Everyone needs their meds and company...Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill.Don't leave the horse in the stable.Make love not war!

    July 26, 2012 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  4. Joshua

    You can not buy an AK-47 you can buy semi-automatic varients but an AK-47 is a fully automatic gun. There are very few AK-47 guns that exsist in the United States because during their production which took place in the former Soviet Union, we were in the Cold War. The idea that less guns make us safer is a lie, if you ban guns criminals will still get them. If that was not true drugs would be none exsistant.

    July 26, 2012 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  5. Brian

    It's so sad that neither of these two candidates is willing to take on the NRA. Yea, I'll be voting...not.

    July 26, 2012 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  6. SofGangsta

    Damn right.

    July 26, 2012 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  7. Wow

    Way to go out on a limb. AK-47s are already illegal. I hope he also feels that we shouldn't throw babies in volcanoes.

    July 26, 2012 04:41 am at 4:41 am |
  8. Arturo Torres

    Yes Sir Mr. President. I agree.

    July 26, 2012 04:41 am at 4:41 am |
  9. larry

    Kinda stupid since the gun used by Holmes was an AR-15, not an AK-47, two totally different firearms,
    He's a rather stupid man, don't you think?

    July 26, 2012 04:42 am at 4:42 am |
  10. Joshua

    Futhermore, for a person to own a fully automatic gun it must be made before 1986 and any AK-47 made after that date, in the hand of a civilian would be illegal.

    July 26, 2012 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  11. C

    Thanks CNN for posting this on your headline news tonight in the Pacific. Maybe you really tell the truth and not one sided on the left.

    July 26, 2012 04:44 am at 4:44 am |
  12. Edward Hall

    Not your place to take an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth.

    July 26, 2012 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
  13. Mark From Middle River

    There were also laws against making and arming explosive devices inside of ones home.... the laws did not stop him from going forward with that phase of his plans. So Mr. President, what new laws will stop ones such as him from obtaining firearms? The Government can not even stop drug tunnels being made under the border to move truck loads of illegal product, so how do they plan to stop guns? If anything, it will just turn the illegal gun market into another factor in the illegal gun trade.

    Just show us the law...the violation that will stop a criminal who is already decided that he will commit a crime already, with all respect, Mr President.

    July 26, 2012 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
  14. Shawn Hannigan

    I am in favor of gun control but I find Obama's speech obscene. In his 1st year, the renewing of the ban on auto and semi-automatic weapons was up. This was before the Tea-Party made most republicans right-wing nut cases. The democrats had enough votes with their majority in both houses plus even a number of Republicans to renew the ban. What does Obama do? He comes out and says gun regulation is a state right and did not endorse the continuation of the ban. For him to now try and capitalize on a tragedy is obscenity of the highest order and earns him a seat with the nut cases of the Tea party. Corruption coming out of Chicago is alive and well- just better dressed.

    July 26, 2012 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  15. Lisa Loo

    I agree that assault weapons have no business on the open market. What on earth would someone of sane mind need for an assault weapon like an Ak-47 or the like? Its one thing to own a rifle for hunting, its entirely different to own a gun, that in the hands of someone not quite firing on all cylinders, that can spray people down in less than a minute. After something as horrific as this latest mass casualty in Aurora, the conversation always reignites aout gun control. And also about how the gun industry can better screen people whom can have guns. For me, there is no central database that can connect all of the dots. For instance, can we have a central data that can red flag a guy that buys guns, buys ammo and then buys armor and chemicals? It would be nice to have a central database that can alert authorities to activities of people who lets say purchases a combo of things. I would think you wouldnt need to filter a guy that buy a huntin rifle and a few boxes of bullets, but you may want to have a filter for someone that buys 2 guns, a boat load of bullets, and armor. As far as a mental screening..well..good luck with that. People are snapping for all kinds of reasons these days.

    July 26, 2012 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  16. n2it

    Why would an American president avoid such an important issue in the mind's of his people?

    July 26, 2012 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  17. Pizza

    Guns kill people !

    July 26, 2012 04:49 am at 4:49 am |
  18. k2

    I find this pure propoganda against America's weapons rivals. Everyone is screaming loud about AK47s, but the fact is that the most recent attacks have all been carried out with AR15s (or variations of)– which are, you guessed it, AMERICAN MADE! And in the Tuscon shooting, i believe the suspect used a Ruger, which is made in Arizona. Long, made short, all auto and semi auto rifles do the same damage whether they have a pistol grip or not. Stop bashing one type of rifle (superior to AR15s), and using AK47s as your punchline like you did with "medical marajuana support" to appease the dems last election.

    July 26, 2012 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  19. Rev. Ihebom C. Ekeocha

    It is difficult to know if a person is buying a gun for self defense or for criminal activities. Americans should know that enemies have taken time to become American citizens. They not only have programs to destroy America by themselves but also through beguiled Americans. So Parents, teachers and fellow citizens should be alert and report strange behaviours. Again any American found in treason should be hard hit. It seems American laws treat criminals with fairness. It should not be so.

    July 26, 2012 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  20. k2

    Oh yea, and by the way, our soldiers don't use AK47s.

    July 26, 2012 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  21. Kona

    Oh, heavens!! Don't even think about one step toward removing assault weapons from the streets!! How could Obama even suggest limiting 2nd Amendment rights?? Everyone should have the right to walk around with 50 cal sniper rifles!

    July 26, 2012 04:53 am at 4:53 am |
  22. clare

    President obama is correct. our country is being destroyed from the inside out. no private party should be allowed to have a a-k 47. we don,t need that to hunt with. what is the purpose other than to kill in mass, or to make money selling these weapons of mass destructuon. the ones selling these guns should be held responsible.the nra has so much to say to continue to be allowed to have these weapons. now, you are quiet while the funerals are being arranged. like president obama said, "only the army".

    July 26, 2012 04:56 am at 4:56 am |

    If only our leaders would be fair to thierself for a true leadership & standin or sincere to thier promises d world as d univers wuold b a beta place for us all.

    July 26, 2012 04:56 am at 4:56 am |
  24. aklogic

    There are hundreds of millions of semi-automatic rifles in this country, of which the AK-47 type has a large representation. One type of semi-auto rifle is no more inherently inappropriate in law- abiding civilian hands than another. They are all tools for insuring freedom. God forbid we ever lose that insurance policy!

    July 26, 2012 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  25. Realist

    A civilian owned AK47 is nothing but another semi-automatic rifle. Pull the trigger and it fires one shot just like every other civilian owned firearm. I can fire a 30-30 lever action almost as fast as a semi-auto AK and the ballistics are almost the same. So is the 30-30 going to come under fire next? Just because it has a pistol grip and long funny looking magazines does not make it any different than any other firearm.

    July 26, 2012 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
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