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. Pat

    Here we go...glad there is a gun show this weekend in VA. Better go get my AK this weekend or I may never get it.

    July 26, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  2. jim

    Bloomberg should clean up the sewer he lives in, then he can worry about the rest of the country.

    July 26, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  3. Anonymous

    I agree that bad people have guns but passing a law taking guns away from bad people will only take guns away from good people. We can not stop drugs from being sold on our streets! How are guns going to be different?

    July 26, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  4. bob

    Romney signed a permanent ban on assault weapons in Mass. He also signed health care into law.....and the list goes on and on. How can a person's views flip on EVERYTHING he or she has believed in just a few years?

    July 26, 2012 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  5. Bruno

    I'm all for gun control, but lets be realistic. Bad guys don't care if something is "illegal". They will use it anyway.

    July 26, 2012 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  6. wallster

    I have to give Obama some credit here. Romney wouldn't dare say anything that would upset the NRA or his far right base, he follows the script that he's told to follow where Obama is pragmatic and makes decisions that may upset a lobbying group (like the NRA).

    July 26, 2012 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  7. George S.

    Like he would know what belongs on a battlefield... I'm sure he's seen one in the movies, maybe a picture.

    July 26, 2012 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  8. carly

    Time for the President to take the next step and call for an immediate ban on assault weapons.

    July 26, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  9. Jim

    And apes are for zoos, yet you continue to sleep with one, Obama.

    July 26, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  10. john

    Everytime I go into a sporting goods store and see some guy looking to buy an assault rifle, he's got half a set of teeth and his wife is pregnant while holding another kid in each arm and they're discussing the various calibers and firepower between themselves as though the purchase is a family decision.

    Those are the sort of people who own the majority of assault weapons in this country.

    July 26, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  11. Earnit

    Soldiers are citizens Mr. President....
    AK-47's make great protection...from my government...
    Fear things are going the way of Syria?

    July 26, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  12. trex

    ........Uzi's aren't just for the Marines......................Uzi's are for unshaven, drunk, illiterate, still boilin', sister kissin', banjo playin' Ttards so they can threaten their neighbors......................

    July 26, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  13. Obama 2012

    The common argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people is a cop out. You can push a sharp knife into a person and kill him but it is much more difficult to push a bullet into a person without a gun.

    July 26, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  14. Ben

    I have always said to be mindful of what you say about Obama as he is the president and you must respect the office. I just wish he did.

    July 26, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  15. ohsilly

    uh oh. Here we go. Capitalizing on a rare, statistically insignificant tragedy to restrict freedoms further. Fast and Furious failed, but this Joker clown in a theater saves the day for anti-gun people.
    So where was the furor when 40 people were shot in ONE weekend in Chicago this summer....and that happened TWICE!!! These were ghetto shootings, so I guess it is expected.... but in a city with strong gun control laws, they are dieing in the streets.
    Now, go to any "red neck" town in the USA.... literally dripping with guns of all types.... and almost everyone has more than one gun..... what's the crime there? (sound of crickets)

    July 26, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  16. jkflipflop

    He's right there should be tighter controls. Things like gun shows shouldn't be allowed. I bought my AK-74 and a russian SKS at a gun show when I was 17 without any checks or anything. It's just here's the money, thanks and enjoy the new AR!

    I love my AR's and going shopping at the big gun shows, but they really do make it way too easy for just anyone to get their mitts on a deadly chunk of hardware. Maybe have some type of sales controller at the show that does the actual sales? You consign to purchase the gun and give the controller the money, the seller hands the weapon over. . . then after the controller gives you a background check the money changes hands and you get your gun.

    July 26, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  17. Mike

    One man with a gun can control 100 without one.
    - Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
    A system of licensing and registration is the perfect device to deny gun ownership to the bourgeoisie.
    - Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
    "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing." – Adolf Hitler

    July 26, 2012 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  18. HenryB

    Oh boy, wait until the rabid right wingnuts start getting ahold of this. They will go ape and again talk about faith, family, freedom, and the need to have guns to protect the three. What a bunch of losers these cretins are.

    July 26, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  19. Podd

    Sure they are for soldiers. Oh and don't forget the criminals in this country that LOVE using them too.

    July 26, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  20. American Citizen

    We need to watch out for anyone who talks about limiting our 2nd amendment rights.
    People who thought gun control was a good idea
    1.) Hitler
    2.) Castro
    3.) Gaddafi
    4.) Stalin
    5.) pol pot
    6.) mao tse-tung
    7.) Kim Jong

    July 26, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  21. TJ

    He's right. I've hunted with Rifle and Bow all my life. I own guns – even a handgun (my dad's service revolver).

    Outlawing assault rifles won't keep guns away from every criminal, but there is really no reason to put any more assault rifles on the market. Transfers should be monitored. They only serve to endanger. They have no functional purpose other than killing. I'd even go so far as to say that anyone that wants to transfer/purchase one should have a psychological evaluation or go through an interview process to monitor for dangerous patterns – just to make sure they are on even ground.

    July 26, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  22. IndyMike

    Why is the president talking about AK-47s? When was an AK-47 used in a mass shooting here in the US? Does he even know what an AK-47 is? I am sure he would not know how to use one. To do so would get his hands dirty and we all know that he would never do that. Maybe he could concentrate on unemployment or the deficit. You know, the things that he was elected to fix but has failed miserably to do so. Wake up, America. He hasn't done anything to deserve another 4 years.

    July 26, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  23. Ben

    If he is reelected, he will do his best to end the second amendment through executive order and court nominations.

    July 26, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  24. da champ

    the only soldiers that use ak-47's are enemy soldiers.

    July 26, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  25. ghOst_Xj

    Americans don't worship God and preach the bible anymore; instead, they worship themselves and the Second Amendment. We'll see where that leads America to.

    July 26, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
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