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. fandancy

    The NRA will buy as many legislators and spend as much money as is necessary to make sure that there is as little gun control as possible. They already own most of the spineless politicians on both sides of the isle.

    July 25, 2012 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  2. PHinMiami

    There, he said it!!

    Anyone with any measure of intelligence should agree, but, wait . . .
    the GOP voter base is at the bottom of the education food chain.

    July 25, 2012 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  3. George

    Finally... showing some spine.
    Meanwhile does anyone know where I can buy a bazooka, or maybe a tank. You never know what the 2nd ammendment will allow you to get these days.

    July 25, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  4. MrNoItAll

    The Brady Bill and current laws -enforced- are good as they are, this theater and others need to tighten their security and access to crowds.

    July 25, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  5. paul

    I agree with President Obama on this one. There is no common sense reason that an 18 yr. old kid should be walking the streets with an AK-47. That gun is not even allowed for hunting in any state. Our founders believed in the 2nd amendment but at that time the gun of choice was a musket. One shot and then reload. AK-47 are for one thing and one thing only. Killing lots of people in a hurry. Time to rid this country of war equipment used by the average citizen.

    July 25, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  6. Lib

    HOw can the government stop violence? It seems some Americans ask much of the government and then complain that government is doing too much. Ok WHich is it?

    July 25, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  7. Chris

    And he just lost the election

    July 25, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  8. blaze562

    AK-47's are for soldiers, Something that our very own President knows nothing about except that it makes a loud bang.
    The same thing about politics and human behavior all he knows is they make loud bangs so what is he going to do to keep weapons out of the cartels hands who kill thousands each year, perhaps create another fast and furious to satisfy what ever he's tripin on. He is an absolute joke.

    July 25, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    funny when was the last legally purchased AK used in a crime?

    July 25, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  10. Just Saying

    Gun CONTROL is about CONTROL of the populace, not guns.

    Obama should go and meet with his Job Panel.

    July 25, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  11. Ralph the Mouth

    So your ruler and check writer thinks our soldiers should be brandishing World War 2 Russian rifles that are notorious for jamming. Nice.

    July 25, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  12. Tommy from Blacksburg

    Is there a good reason for someone to own an assault rifle and drum/banana clips? These things should not be commercially available.

    July 25, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  13. Motto

    Both guys can talked whatever they want, including the big mouth NY Mayor..... they are just doing the lip service and nothing they can do with insane people, who just want to harm other innocent people for nothing....

    We live in a freedom country, everybody can buy whatever guns they want to do the thing they need. The government can help to prevent this kind of strgedy is to MONITOR the early side of trouble. Why could not
    the FBI database detect the early siigns of trouble from Holmes and aloow him bouight that much weapons within a short period of six months???

    July 25, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  14. darkrunner

    It wasn't an AK-47, it was an AR-15, and they don't make 100 round magazines for them, although the media reported this nonsense earlier.

    July 25, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  15. Nameuh

    Uh oh.. here we go w all the, these guns are mine I'd like to see you take em comments. Just admit, having an ak47 or assault rifle as a civilian serves no purpose at all

    July 25, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  16. JiminNM

    I don't believe Thomas Jefferson would agree. In fact, I believe Thomas Jefferson would advocate that the people should have any weapon that the police, military or other organization have available to them.

    July 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  17. Mack

    I think he is out of touch with reality. I'm pretty sure most gun owners think regular citizens should be allowed to own assault rifles, including AK-47s.

    July 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  18. commonsense

    Mr. President is wrong! Full automatic AK-47s belong in military. Semi-auto AKs belong in the hands of responsible adults, and very rarely does it fall into the hands of a lunatic. It's an overreaction to make a bold statement like his just because one clown a year loses his senses. Also, I didn't see any soldiers there with their guns to shoot up James Holmes...oh that's right, innocent people can not legally conceal a gun, or a knife, or taser, and in many places even pepper spray. God Bless Ameri...dictatorship.

    July 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  19. joe

    "enforcing existing laws and rewarding states that provide the best data about gun owners."

    He still hasn't a clue about anything. Someone please tell him it is NOT legitimate owners of guns. My fear is why does he need all this data on legitimate gun owners when he's the POTUS and we can't see his college papers. hmmm. Do you know several of Barry's staff have Swiss Bank Accounts. Did you notice when Pelosi was asked to release her tax returns she quit asking Romney to release his. hmmm. 8% of Obama's st6aff has actually had a private sector job. They're all academics who just can't believe what they imagined and wrote isn't real.

    July 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  20. Jack Escher

    And the president is absolutely correct. AK-47 belong the hands of soldiers... almost no Americans have the money or special tax stamp to own the handful of real AK47s that exist in the country. The neutered semi-automatics that civilians are "allowed" to own are surely not what he is talking about... is it? Oh, I forgot, an easy subject to confuse the sheep about... Just to clarify... AK-47's are fully automatic rifles and very few exist in civilian hands in the USA... it takes deep pockets, months of paperwork and checks by the federal government, a tax stamp, etc. to own one. Is the President that confused or is he that decitful? In either case it's worrysome.

    July 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  21. disgustedvet

    AK-47s are for soldiers. Yes Mr. President,but not OUR soldiers . They are for the soldiers of our enemies and of terrorists both foreign and domestic.

    July 25, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  22. ew

    Wonder if this schmuck realizes that foreign forces use AK-47's? As Commander-in-Chief of U.S. forces, could he even name the standard duty rifle of U.S. troops???

    July 25, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  23. anon

    The TSA, DHS and countless other security agencies have been established to keep America safe from terrorist attacks in post-9/11 America. How far beyond that does the feds’ reach really go, though?
    The attacks September 11, 2001, were instrumental in enabling the US government to establish counterterrorism agencies to prevent future tragedies. Some officials say that they haven’t stopped there, though, and are spying on everyone in America — all in the name of national security.

    July 25, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  24. MR no

    uh oh, here come all the "these are my guns, try takin from me" comments... AK-47s and assault rifles serve no civilian purpose at all

    July 25, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  25. George Farber

    Here's a new age concept. Require all legal guns to have an imbedded chip that allows law enforcement to detect and identify the weapon from a distance of half a mile.

    July 25, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
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