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. Beezy

    obama, Soldiers do not carry AK47's. The taliban does. Just another example of how out of touch obama is. Somebody on these boards said yesterday that obama is the best friend of the military. You could not be more wrong. He is the worst thing to happen to us in the history of this country.

    July 26, 2012 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  2. Eric

    I don't think you quite understand Mr. President, we American citizens don't have an armed detail walking/riding with us everywhere we go. The laws in place to protect the criminals of this country need to be changed not the laws that help us law abiding citizens protect our families from the people of this country who seem to not really need to abide by the laws in place. Maybe instead of trying so hard to take away guns you should try a little harder to create a law that gives the punishment deserved to an individual who does wrong by killing anyone at anytime. You have an individual in custody that you and everyone else on this earth with an IQ of a wet crouton knows did it but yet we as a country will spend millions studying, prosecuting, insuring and housing him until he dies. If there are no fears in doing the crime then why would anyone who decides to commit the crime not do it. This man should have been executed already and the people of Aurora Colorado and their families should be getting on with rebuilding what's left of their lives.

    July 26, 2012 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  3. davidwattsjr

    What is it that makes an AK-47 "for soldiers"? Legal AK-47s are not fully automatic. They are semi-automatic just like a host of hunting rifles. So, what makes them "for soldiers"? Is it their look?

    Obama continues the silliness of those who decry "assault weapons." All legal rifles are semi-automatic only. Some look "traditional" and some look like military weapons – but they are the same.

    Obama continues the nonsensical and political pandering for political gain.

    July 26, 2012 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  4. KC

    There are 2 issues that can be identified with respect to gun control:
    1. If there was a strong limitation on the type of guns that can be sold in the free market, the incidence of gun violence will definitely reduce. Like Obama said, AK47s and the like shouldn't be for domestic use!
    2. Those who perpertrate gun violence like the colorado shooting case should never be excused on the ground of mental health. They are all mentally sound and made a choice to kill their fellow human beings for cheap gains like needless publicity. How can a mentally deranged person do online transactions, set booby traps and even plan a well co-ordinated attack? Any body that claims insanity in this case is lying and there should be leniency on the part of the law.

    July 26, 2012 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  5. canadafirstaid

    To stop the shootings, please stop the madness of exporting high powered guns and rifles to Mexico and Canada plus elsewhere. Keep your guns at home. cfa

    July 26, 2012 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  6. Leftygtrguy

    Finally, showing the "right stuff" on gun control. Thank you mr. President, not a great vote getter move, but who cares, its the right thing to do, as a canadian , gun deaths are a small fraction of what you deal with in your great country, its about time to at least get the ak's and other assault weapons off the streets.

    July 26, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  7. Don't be fooled

    The ultimate goal of United Nations, Obama, and many liberals in positions of power is to completely disarm all citizens. Achieving this goal paves the way for governments (and criminals, of course) to have complete power over you without fear of resistance.

    July 26, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  8. leo maniace

    AK-47s should be used to get rid of all politicians, The most corrupt, amoral individuals on the planet.

    July 26, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  9. Gene Varner

    "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.

    Only "criminal gun owners" would disagree with the idea that they should be able to own one. As for the statement that they belong only in the hands of soldiers, you really, really blew the second amendment.

    Since I'm not a criminal, do I have a right to own one?

    July 26, 2012 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  10. bear

    “I’m always struck by people who think, Well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something: There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. Teachers and mentors helped create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
    -Barack Hussein Obama II (Supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood)

    We all know very well that "James Eagan Holmes" absolutely could not have done this on his own. After all, how did "James Eagan Holmes" "finance" his "success"? How did he purchase his AR-15, Glocks, shotgun, armor-piercing ammo, tactical battle gear, tear gas, and bombs? From the above we learn that James didn't do this on his own. The "government" helped him do it. My hat is off to ya US Government. But should I be surprised? Because in the Library of Congress we can find financial evidence that you also "helped" fund the Nazi Holocaust. Thanks for the great “American system.”

    July 26, 2012 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  11. Todd

    I am unflinchingly conservative in all of my political views and am looking forward to the day when Obama is no longer our President.

    But for the life of me I can't think of a single convincing argument as to why it should be legal to purchase automatic weapons. I fully support the right to bear arms, protect one's family, and abide by the laws if one would like to carry their firearm (concealed or otherwise). But I see absolutely no reason to have automatic weapons being sold to citizens nor the over-sized clips that are also available.

    July 26, 2012 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  12. Hmmm

    Well then ban the import of AK-47/SKS model guns from overseas, where 90% of them are produced. And pot, meet kettle- your own Justice Department is complicit in trafficking of these types of weapons, and an American died. Who will be held responsible? The NRA? C'mon. And what of the gang violence in Chicago and other cities that happens nightly? Why the silence on that? Did these gangtas buy their AK's from the gun store after a background check? No- they bought them from a cartel source along with their cocaine/heroin/pot. If they are banned here, then criminals will just get them from the Mexican military or smuggled in- how on earth do these people in Podunk, USA, get grenades, for god's sake?

    July 26, 2012 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  13. leo maniace

    Congress can not end violence, they con not mandate good behavior, they can only wish for it. It is up to each individual in society to choose to behave appropriately. Mentally ill individuals(especially politicians) will always be with us and will always be a threat because we live in a free society.

    July 26, 2012 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  14. M

    Damn straight, Mr president! We used to be a nation that loved and respected our guns, but believed in some small amount of gun control. The NRA and other special interest groups have allowed this to go too far.

    Sure it's an election year and this statement is probably designed to also fire up your base, but it's the right declaration in a nation with far too many assault rifles for ever "hunter" or "collector" out there.

    July 26, 2012 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  15. bezerkur

    I think if our forefathers knew how gun technology would of progressed to what it is today I would have to think fully automatic weapons would be on the black list for civilian ownership. Just 10 Ak-47s or M5s in the right hands could of won the Revolutionary war.

    July 26, 2012 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  16. Marcus

    Gun laws are for Communists and Dictators, I am a BlueSteel Democrat! Banning guns for civilians is stupid and wrong.

    July 26, 2012 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  17. Marie MD

    Thank you Mr. President for stating what most Americans know it's true. There is NO reason whatsoever for anyone to purchase semi automatic weapons. You can't hunt with them and they are only good for what happened in Colorado and it makes any police force amateurs as the criminals have better weapons than they do.
    For those of you who keep thinking that a gun will help you save your family (while you sleep and the burglars come into your house and steal your guns) we have a four year old in the area who shot himself last night.
    That's what guns are good for!

    July 26, 2012 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  18. UallRwrong

    And yet his buddy Holder sold them to criminals. Go figure.

    July 26, 2012 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  19. Out Of Touch with reality

    wow, so out of touch, who carries AK-47, its not the American soldier, its obamas marxist friends and who is is trying to turn this country into, gun control wont work and when will the idiot dems understand that, never...

    July 26, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  20. VicMorrow

    Actual military AK47 assault rifles are the most popular military weapon of all time, found on battlefields and street corners throughout the world. They are, of course, long out of production, being replaced in modern Eastern bloc armies by the AK74. In the US they are very rare, having to have been manufactured before 1996 to be allowed to be sold to civilians, and requiring a federal $200 transfer stamp and background check to purchase because they are machine guns.

    The civilian lookalikes that are common in the US aren't assault rifles. They are merely semiauto moderate power cartridge rifles no different, except cosmetically, from the modern Remington, Ruger, Winchester, and Browning semiauto hunting rifles. The "high power" cartridge the AK47 lookalikes fire is ballistically identical to the venerable .30-30 of cowboy movie fame.

    Of course we expect lies to come out of the mouths of people like Obama. They will leap on any excuse to further their agenda of disarming the American people. Slaves are disarmed so they can't revolt. Free men are armed, so if need arises, they CAN revolt. It is the final check on government abuses.

    July 26, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  21. Sagebrush Shorty

    Our streets are the "Battlefield of War" Mr. President. Perhaps if you were not so intent on divivding the country by class and race you would notice that fact.

    July 26, 2012 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  22. Nick

    Lets get something straight, the second amendment is not meant to solely protect a person's right to own a hunting rifle, or revolver. The second amendment protects ownership of ALL legal firearms, and that includes semi-automatic variants of the AK 47 and the AR 15. Mr. Obama, don't say you're on the side of second amendment rights and then say AK 47's need to be in the hands of soldiers only. Statments like that only affirm your opposition to second amendment rights. Make it tough or impossible for criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining weapons but do not encroach on the freedoms of law abiding citizens.....

    July 26, 2012 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  23. Mike Richey

    Who the hell does he think he is to dictate what guns we carry. If there was not a AK that the guy used it would be some other gun. Obama has screwed this country up. Do us a favor and go away.

    July 26, 2012 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  24. UallRwrong

    Keeping our young people safe? How about the rest of us?

    July 26, 2012 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  25. Chris

    I have yet to hear from a single gun rights advocate a legitimate reason why an average person needs an AK-47.

    July 26, 2012 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
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