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. calvin

    gun control is needed for heavy weapons. no ak47 or any auto with more then 9 shots. next question who is to set this up. we all know that the goverment can mess up and good idea. if obama groupe have it way it will be the wrose time in us history. look at fast and furys. we now have the worse A G in history. Holder.

    July 26, 2012 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  2. Eyambe E. A.

    I support Mr. President. I believe that some people masterminded the act. Why should AK 47 be used by civilians? Are they surpose to own it. How did they get? There is a hand writing on the wall.

    July 26, 2012 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  3. korkea aika

    Laws can't outlaw hate. But if they could, the "Anyone but Obama" crowd would have to do some time. Obama 2012!

    July 26, 2012 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  4. gunguy

    What do AK-47's have to do with anything? Hardly anyone in the US has those except the US military for training purposes. Obtaining a license to own an AK47 is 10's of thousands of dollars, and there are no AK imports. The President needs to get his facts straight. lul

    July 26, 2012 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  5. Beau Cassidy

    Don't beat around the bush. This is one of the biggest issues with our country today. We don't live in the 1700's anymore where guns are common-place in a house. The 2nd amendment is completely antiquated and needs to be changed. That starts with strict gun control similar to what is done in the United Kingdom. No more walking into wal-mart and buying rifle. All the president is doing here is saying what needs to say to get by without getting reamed.

    July 26, 2012 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  6. Daniel S. Duvall

    I wonder which "well-regulated militia" Holmes belonged to.

    July 26, 2012 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  7. tinazwit

    So the gun lobby says we Americans need our AK-47s so we can defend ourselves from the "nuts" that have them. I think the 3 month old in that Aurora theatre might have had a little trouble using hers, perhaps the 6 year old could've helped her out.

    July 26, 2012 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  8. Alex

    Finally some common sense to the gun problems in this country. There was no Ak-47 when the Second Amendment was written. People are just going to be able to get guns no matter what..that is the biggest false of the "gun-nut". In fact it has been demonstrated that the states with the least gun control laws experience the worst gun crime. Look at the type of shootings that occur in Arizona vs California. Supposedly California is the Wild Wild West but we have a substantially lower rate of gun deaths per capita, than many states.

    July 26, 2012 05:07 am at 5:07 am |
  9. me

    if these people dont respect human life and obey the most important law"thou shall not kill"specially babies and other innocent people ,what makes anyone think they would obey gun laws?

    July 26, 2012 05:07 am at 5:07 am |
  10. Eastender

    I agree – I am all for citizens having guns to protect themselves. But do we really need AK-47's in the hands of any citizen? IMHO – no.

    July 26, 2012 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  11. Dave Anders

    Obama would love ALL guns to be taken from us citizens- remember that he pays Wright to preach killing all races except black! He tried to deduct the money he paid Wright on his federal income tax-shows that he will use his position of President for his personal reasons.

    July 26, 2012 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  12. Art

    Year Deaths
    2005 43,443
    2006 42,642
    2007 41,059
    2008 37,261
    2009 33,808
    2010 32,885

    Traffic deaths....if the government would keep vehicles only
    in the hands of soldiers, most of these could have been

    July 26, 2012 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  13. guy

    An AK-47 wasn't used in the Colorado shooting.

    July 26, 2012 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  14. tom

    I'm reasonably certain there is an error in this piece. Where you quote Barack Obama as saying "These steps shouldn't controversial. They should be common sense,"
    Shouldn't it say "These steps shouldn't >>>be<<<controversial. They should be common sense,"

    July 26, 2012 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  15. C

    Obama just secured the election for Romney on this comment. Thanks Obama for saving America.

    July 26, 2012 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  16. New Orleans

    Like Street Soldiers?
    This isn't about hunting. This is about people protecting themselves, families, neighbors, citizens, homes and businesses from cartel funded gangs, and even Blackwater again if need be, in the next Katrina Aftermath Urban Warfare situation.
    With NO US-MX Border to speak of, the AK-47s are Already here, and will continue to pour in.

    July 26, 2012 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  17. clare

    President obama, again is correct about our children. parents have left the tv and violant video games to raise our childred. we uswed to have an extended family. the neighbor, teacher, etc could chastise your child and come to you and tell you what he or she did and you got chastised again. not any more. you can't take control of your own children. if you hit your child you end up in jail. this is why we ended up with talk back, slam the door, dial 911, reefer smoking kids. thank god for my old time folks.

    July 26, 2012 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  18. JerPell

    Three times more people are killed in auto crashes than gun violence, why won't he throw that into the political mix.
    This guy will campaign on the backs of anyone, now using the tragedy in Colorado, how about auto deaths at 49,000 a year!

    July 26, 2012 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  19. derriquestuckey

    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."
    Gee, you think?? Thank you, Captain Obvious.

    July 26, 2012 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  20. New Orleans

    "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."
    And sorry to break it to you, but Here in Murder City New Orleans, THE STREETS ALREADY ARE THE BATTLEFIELD.
    And in the Katrina Aftermath Urban Warfare, it took FIVE DAYS OF BLOODY HELL before armed soldiers from the US Military arrived to save us. Our stricken Police Department was out-numbered, out-armed and in danger of being massacred. It was the 'gun nuts', LAWFUL owners who 'don't need AK-47s, who kept themselves and many others alive waiting.....waiting......waiting......
    Because 'When seconds count, the police are only minutes away"......in a Catastrophic Event? The Military took DAYS., over a week actually before they were organized enough to start 'getting things under control'.

    I will not pretend this didn't happen, or that of course it won't happen again, to make anyone feel better. We looked just like Syria. Deal with it. DO NOT TAKE AWAY OUR CHANCES OF SURVIVING IT.

    July 26, 2012 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  21. smthchords

    "AK-47's are for Soldiers." Ok, well our US military don't issue AK-47 rifles and the suspect used a AR style rifle. So which is it?

    July 26, 2012 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  22. Patrick

    The 2nd Amendment isn't about "hunting" as Mr. Obama appears to to believe. Yet another in a long line of reasons he isn't qualified to be the POTUS.

    July 26, 2012 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  23. gino

    What Obama is saying is that anybody with an AK47 or other similar rifle is a dangerous person, and the ATF needs to invade our families in the middle of the night and confiscate our legally purchased firearms to secure the safety of the criminals.

    July 26, 2012 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  24. John W

    I don't understand the point of having a gun at all unless you are in the military. If you need weapon for self defense just loose some fat and lift weights. Forget about the second amendment. Laws are made to be scraped if they don't make sense whether it is made by "founding fathers" or grand fathers.

    July 26, 2012 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  25. john harns

    It's not guns fault, it's the people who carry out these crimes who are at fault. If the dude in Colorado didn't have access to guns he would have just came up with some other way to kill. There are thousands of ways for humans to kill one another, as a matter of fact we are kinda experts at it and pointing the finger at what weapons are used is not going to stop people from doing what they are going to set out to do. So yea, keep living in fantasy land. Way to reel in some more votes Obama. Oh and love how the news blabbers about copy-cat crimes. Yea i wonder why? You make these criminals national tv/internet stars, almost like your praising what these nuts do and then you wonder why someone would want to copy these crimes and get the same movie star treatment. I hope you all rot in hell if there is such a place.

    July 26, 2012 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
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