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. Daily Llama

    When a society sensationalizes crime – disguised as news or entertainment – yet, fails to properly prosecute and punish criminals – they are rewarded for their efforts with a truly terrifying increase in both.


    July 26, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  2. Randy

    I guess Mexican cities don't count in his "concern"...since his administration sold these weapons to gangs in Mexico for use on THEIR city streets. Unbelievable hypocrisy.

    July 26, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  3. MIke

    The coloado shooter did not use an AK-47, he murdered those people with an AR-15, a shotgun and handgun. So why is Obama talking about AK-47? Does he not understand the difference? Perhpas he is just wanting to set the steps in motion to remove firearms from all US citizens? I do not trust this man.

    July 26, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  4. GL

    But what happens when the war gets to our streets? I am, most definitely, a soldier for my own life.

    Obama said. "That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

    July 26, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  5. dean

    AK-47's are for soldiers? He forgot to include to Mexican drug cartels, courtesy of his administration.

    July 26, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  6. DW

    Yes! AK 47's ARE for soldiers and police. No one needs them in their hunting collection.

    July 26, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  7. VRage13

    King B Hussein of the Divided States of Marxist Sociaistl America,

    I have assualt weapons BECUASE the police and military have them. That keeps me on a more equal footing with them in the event someone like you tries to take away my freedoms. FREEDOMS I served 26 years in the military to protect. That is something you know nothing about. I will end this with a quote from George Washington. Just to remind you King B Hussein, this GW was the first president of the United States of America. He said...."I would that every citizen be armed and supplied so that they might defend themselves from ANYONE who might opress them them, INCLUDING THIER OWN GOVERNMENT!"

    July 26, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  8. Ted van Tol

    This man showed some courage here. But it must said and new gunlaws are needed.
    It's a shame that this issue is so difficult in the USA. A stronger message would be
    better but I am sure that when Obama speaks out his mind and heart his message would be much stonger but
    it will mean a great danger for his LIFE and thats in essence the biggest problem on this issue.

    July 26, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  9. Reddog9500

    I agree with the President on this issue. I am a hunter and a shooting enthusiast and frankly do not think our 2nd Amendment Right is violated by restricting ownership of certain weapons. The 2nd Amendment does not give a citizen the right to own a tank, mortar, M34 Minigun, bazooka and any number of weapons that have been designed as materials of war, so I do not see a problem with banning AK47s, and other military style weapons that accept detachable high capacity magazines. I understand that there are many who disagree with this, but the restrictions on fully-automatic weapons have been around since the 1930's and have helped to reduce criminal access to these types of weapons.

    I also firmly believe that all States should have criminal background checks for all gun purchases and something needs to be done to ensure that mentally deranged people do not have access to any firearms.

    July 26, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  10. Rookie

    The Founding Fathers of this Country, intended for Citizens to own the same weapons as the Military, in order for the People to keep the Government at bay. Nothing has changed, except the Government has become more agressive in attempting to take away ALL of the Rights of the People!

    July 26, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  11. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    I lived through the Rodney King riots in LA.

    The LAPD ran away like little girls in yellow dresses
    they shouted over their shoulder “You are on your own” !!!

    Government will fail you 100% of the time !!!

    The OBAMA Cartel and the Media will exploit this
    in every way it can to terminate the Second Amendment.

    It is going to be a long HOT summer !!!
    Get a good rifle and a 1,000 rounds while you still can.

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

    Let the war about guns begin. the fact that there have been this many MEDIA COVERED shootings in the last 3 years should be a wake up call for some. and i know that people should be able to carry. but in public? in stores and libraries and bus stations? things need to be changed, and now is the time to change them.

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

    Gun Control, now the death knell of the Obama campaign, anywher there are hunters or sportsmen they know this guy cannot lie anymore cannot say he is a hunter or not against guns. The truth is out another nail in the coffin of the worst president in history. If you value freedom of religion he has attacked it (unless your religion is muslim) if you are for the second amendment well now the skunk reveals more of his true stripes. A vote for Obama is a vote to remain out of work, to destroy the economy more, to make the world and the US less safe. He is all up in arms about guns but what about illegals? How many Americans are raped and murdered or robbed by those here illegally ???? We do not even deport criminals now under our nightmare president and voter ID oh now wouldn't want that.........

    July 26, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  14. William

    Yet no mention of the holocaust that is happening in the black community now. From Chicago, Cleveland, NY to Philly the morgues are being filled up with young black men who where shot not by a white, not a half white, but rather other black youth. We read everyday how children are shot in the crossfire. They did not get their guns from dealers. They roam the streets beating people and posting it on the net. We can look at the tools used by violent people all day but until we take an honest look at what kind of society we have become all this will not end.

    July 26, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  15. woody

    Speaking of Tighter Background Checks, why is it Obama has a Connecticut issued Social Security number again?

    July 26, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  16. EKIA

    AK-47s are to defend against a tyrannical government. Only a tyrannical government would seek to confiscate them. This is the path every dictator in history has trod.

    July 26, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  17. NativeUSA

    Gun control now that will go over well in Louisianna..............can you say stupid is as stupid does? Next in your New Oreleans speech how about go after the oil companies and shrimp being unhealthy.........really endear yourself there Mr President.

    July 26, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  18. Roger Kane

    Gun Violence claims roughly 9,500 victims a year. You want to truly be a humanitarian, revoke Roe vs. Wade, which claims over 1.2 million lives a year. More children die on a single day in America from abortion than from guns, it's not even close. But where are the headlines and the candlelight vigils for those victims?

    July 26, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  19. reality check

    That is an opinion Mr. President. The right to bear arms is NOT for personal home protection, but protection from a TYRANNICAL government.

    July 26, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  20. DCinAllen

    "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"

    Government shouldn't be trying to fill the holes in ANYBODY'S HEART. Could you even imagine the beaurocracy involved with that? "here, fill out this 1090-A questionaire and tell us how you feel about the following statements, rating each statement 1-10, '1 being I feel good', and '10 being I fill bad'. Please allow 4-6 weeks for processing.

    July 26, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  21. Fred

    Wasn't there a report in the fall of 2011 that the Obama administration gave $6 million dollars worth of AK 47s to our enemies in afghanistan, and that it was blown off as a simple mistake that was intended to be a "stimulus" for the country of Afghanistan?

    July 26, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  22. CM

    That is true, AK-47s do belong in soldiers, because they are assault rifles and are already banned unless you have a class 3 license. A true AK-47 has the ability to fire in single-shot or fully automatic. What most people have are civilian versions of the AK-47 which are not built with the same quality that the military version is and they lack the ability to do anything other than fire on semi-automatic.

    By the way...the President is one to talk...I mean his administration has been complicit in the murder of at least one border patrol agent (maybe 2) and untold numbers of Mexican citizens through Fast and Furious.

    All these op-eds and speeches coming out recently aren't a coincidence; they were pre-packed to be released when it was "revealed" that most gun violence in Mexico was because of lax American laws. But when Fast and Furious was blown, well the anti-2nd Amendment crowd had to regroup.

    July 26, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  23. SugarKube

    If Obama wants to give every America a "fair shake" he should give out free guns to everyone, just like cell phones etc.

    July 26, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  24. imputt

    Obama needs to go back to Chicago and start there. He didn[t do anything there either. Shootings match those of the Colo movie theaters every night. How can a guy that accomplished nothing as a senator and then again nothing as a president except ruination for our country, even be a cantidate?

    July 26, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  25. Kirra45

    Agreed. I'm a hunter's daughter, I more than understand that nice people own nice guns, however – there isn't a need for anybody to be running around with an AK47. If it's not a gun that's easily used for sport or protection, it should be banned from civilian use. Period.

    July 26, 2012 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
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