July 25th, 2012
09:51 PM ET
8 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. Sagebrush Shorty

    Yes Mr. President, let's do it like they do it in Chicago and then peace will reign.

    July 26, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  2. KT

    Ban assalt weapons, period. Why is it that I can walk into a gun shop and buy a AK-4, a M16, a Simiautomatic, and other military equipment, as if am shopping a Wal-Mart or picking up a soda from a convience store with no background check. People want a right to bare arms, cool. You don't need a AK-47. Why in the hell do you need a simiautomatic? What purpose does that serve? It's senseless. America...has the most guns and is the most violent country of citizens killing citizens. Don't even try and say that the middle east or muslims are the most violent in this situation, that's a whole different ballgame. And have you not noticed. It's always white people talking about the right to bare arms, no other race of people-unless they are republican. Ban all assult weapons-military weapons...period!

    July 26, 2012 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  3. protank

    The govt is afraid of gun owners, Thats why the 2nd amendment

    July 26, 2012 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  4. Katie

    Yes Sir!!! There is absolutely NO need for anyone to own an automatic rifle or an automatic weapon of any kind.

    July 26, 2012 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  5. O-brother

    Problem here Barry, is that AK-47 belong to YOUR soldiers in the middle east. Here we use the M-16. SHEESH!

    July 26, 2012 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  6. dk76

    Does Obama know the difference between an AR-15 and an AK-47? Does he know most of the AK-47s in our country are semi-automatic? I have a feeling that more crimes are committed by a Glock handgun versus an AK-47 in this country. Btw it\'s funny how Obama says that AK47s belong to soldiers when most of our troops don\'t use an AK-47s, a FULL Automatic AK-47 is most widely used by terrorist because it\'s widely available, dirt cheap, and has a high tolerance for abuse. I guess it\'s better to mention an AK-47 which Communist made vs a AR-15 which is American made.

    These two presidential candidates are all sell outs, they don\'t look for our interest but their own pockets and their political career.

    Obama is a joke....AK47 belong in the hands of our soldiers.... you meant to say the Mexican drug cartels which you guys probably just sold to them to get some gas money.... it\'s a fact that our country is the #1 exporters of firearms in the world...

    Romney is a bigger joke, he\'s doesn\'t even have a ground to stand on.......just an empty suit chasing the ambulance.
    – this time around i\'m voting for the Green Party.

    July 26, 2012 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  7. Curtis

    And if you take all of our assault weapons away from us, we will no longer have a militia in the event that our country is attacked. I dunno, but I'd like to keep my options open.

    July 26, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  8. saveg1

    "A-K 47's belong in the hands of Soldiers" ? Yeah, And in the hands of Drug Cartels, Right Obama/Holder......

    July 26, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  9. MCR

    Finally! Obama has been a disappointment in the area of gun control. He has not spoken out in favor of stronger gun control laws. Had he done so from day one—especially when there was a Democratic majority in congress, which would have more easily passed such laws—perhaps what happened last week in Aurora would not have happened.

    It took a massacre of unprecedented proportions for him to finally speak out against the excesses of the NRA gun lobby. Shame on the President for waiting so long to say something (and we don't know if he'll follow it up with any action) , and shame on the NRA for continuing to insist that the right to bear arms includes weapons of mass destruction.

    July 26, 2012 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  10. Me

    Exactly right, the same reason we shouldn't own land mines or mortars either. They are tools for the military not civilians.

    July 26, 2012 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  11. Gordie

    Wrong, AK-47's are for the enemy

    July 26, 2012 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  12. Neal

    Government can only do so much in terms of preventing violence..The wars/occupations.

    July 26, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  13. C

    So does Obama want the shooter tried as an adult or a minor when he chooses to describe him as a child? He is a 24 year old adult – made a choice of his own – that was awful and not preventable by gov't, and I hope he is prosecuted as an adult and not a child as Obama describes.

    July 26, 2012 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  14. Elizabeth

    Marion Zimmer Bradley created a fictional world named Darkover.
    The societies on that world came close to destroying each other and ultimately signed "the compact" which prohibited any weapon that put the user at farther than an arms length from the target. Essentially, knives, etc. No guns.
    Can you imagine how few wars there would be if we took that up on our planet?

    Assault weapons are for cowards.

    July 26, 2012 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  15. Bob

    It's not the guns!! it's the people. A kitchen knife or a car can kill also! Why take guns away from the good guys? it won't stop the bad guys.......they don't care about the laws.

    July 26, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  16. Rennie Grant

    This politicizing of the Guns due to the Aurora incident has got to cease. We have guns. They exist in our world. They will always exist in our world. Making them illegal, banning them, cursing them, kowtowing to the left and using this as a platform just makes you look desperate Mr. President. Anyone who grows up in Rural areas has more than one and most have a collection from Flint locks to Ak-47's. Many are vets, many are well trained law enforcement officers and their families. Guns are NOT the problem. If you really want to further alienate yourself rom these folks keep pushing the anti-gun agenda.

    July 26, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  17. Steve- Illinois

    Obama pandering to the anti-gunners! Shocking! Now if only he can figure out a way to blame Republicans! He'll toss out a few more empty promises, but do nothing, just like with immigration.

    July 26, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  18. crabman2

    Big speech in New Orleans . You know , the city which confiscated citizens' weapons after Katrina ? Soldier do need AK's , but so do American citizens who may need to protect themselves from their own government , at some point . Not ot mention that it's our right to own them . I'm keeping mine .

    July 26, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  19. retiree

    How does Obama know what the military needs. He's probably never picked up a gun.

    July 26, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  20. dk76

    "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."

    I'm a gun collector and I can assure you sir that the AK-47s we have in our country are not the same ones that can shoot full automatic. AK-47s are popular here in the states because the ammo is dirt cheap and highly reliable vs an AR-15. Criminals don't follow the law, that's why the are called criminals....laws only affect the law abiding citizens giving false assurance. Even if you ban guns in our country, they will be on the shopping list of the Mexican drug cartels where their number customer for drugs is our country...Our country is ran on a militaristic industrial complex where the politicians are just mere puppets of the defense contractors and other powerful lobbyist.... e.g. tobacco, alcohol, automotive, medical, finance, and so forth.... our country has a false democracy instead it's ruled by the people with money a.k.a. the 1% elites.

    July 26, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  21. Lee

    AK47s belong in the hands of law abiding citizens....
    what part of SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED does he not understand?

    July 26, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  22. works4me

    It's all in the timing. He does everything in a calculated way. If he had jumped on this shortly after this horrible incident it would have been merely playing politics. At least he has taken a stand against assault weapons. There's only one need for them... kill people... lots of people. He's absolutely right about where they belong.

    July 26, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  23. sillybonobo

    It's funny, Obama should have said that AK-47s are for soldiers and criminals, since that is pretty much the only people who own them, and taking them from the few law abiding collectors that can afford the exorbitant fees and licensing requirements won't do a single thing to stop crime.

    July 26, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  24. Sarge

    So is it just me or is it that POTUS doesn't know that the US predominatley uses the M-16 and M-4. Maybe he is thinking back on his days as a child soldier in Kenya or the Philippines, where most of the rest of the globe uses the AK style rifle.

    July 26, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  25. sillybonobo

    It\'s funny, Obama should have said that AK-47s are for soldiers and criminals, since that is pretty much the only people who own them, and taking them from the few law abiding collectors that can afford the exorbitant fees and licensing requirements won\'t do a single thing to stop crime.

    July 26, 2012 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
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