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. Sheeple

    The gun confication begins while obama fast and furious guns into mexico and follows U.N orders to ban all buns. Watch cnn not approve this post because they work with the globalist agenda.

    July 26, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  2. Mark

    I'm a conservative and glad Obama had some big things to say on this...just don't blame congress again, that gets old.

    July 26, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |

    We need more Batmans in our streets , more armed citizens ready to act if needed . Also ; most crime are done by firts time offenders , anyone can be a first time offender. At these point is too late to place bans or try to limit guns , every nation is plagued by small arms . Just change the news channel and watch cartoons , you will see how much violence our kids are eating daily .

    July 26, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Not much for setting example in Mexico with weapons, are you? Or ignoring that anyone (holder) should be held responsible.

    "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."

    What a joke.

    July 26, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  5. jbituin21

    Obama just politicize this issue. Prior to the massacre in Colorado, is there something he has done on gun issues? No.

    This President always put himself where people turn their attention to get their attention and.... votes!

    July 26, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  6. Philo99

    How very timely and reactive.

    Obama: you sat on your hands and said nothing for three years, scared of the criticism you would receive. It took the killing of 12 people for you to finally get the cuts to open your mouth. Sorry but that's too little too late. There is blood on your hands for your lack of action.

    July 26, 2012 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  7. Nat Q

    Without saying whether I agree or disagree, isn't that the classic 2nd Amendment argument, though? That the Amendment *really* exists for people to defend themselves from an oppressive government more than from each other? I mean it was written by people who had JUST come off a war of (often) citizen-soldiers against an "oppressive" government military. So to say now that only the soldiers (i.e., government) should have the really powerful weapons only inflames those that view the Amendment in light of what many say IS its original intent of allowing citizens, should it ever be necessary, to stand up TO that very same government.

    Will we ever need to stand up to our government again? I'd certainly like to think not, but it is important to understand the argument from both sides, I think.

    July 26, 2012 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  8. Common Sense

    Obama's common sense gun laws: Ban possession of firearms by the mentally unstable (democrats) and groups statistically prone to violent crime (african-Americans).

    July 26, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  9. Michael M

    I'm a former police officer and gun owner. I'm a Republican and disagree with the President on most matters; however, I absolutely agree that military designed and military type weapons belong with the soldier and not with the civilian. Own a handgun for personal defense, own a rifle or shotgun for hunting but you don't need a weapon that was designed to kill people.

    July 26, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  10. Rob

    Obama may be a politician which definitely makes him suspect, but Romney is a political chameleon and he has run out of colors. Hearing him talk makes my IQ go down.

    July 26, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  11. Ron H

    I actually agree that an automatic rifle doesn't belong on the streets...and I'm in the military.

    July 26, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  12. Raul Gracia

    This is why I voted for Obama – so that he take a stand on issues that other politicians have been too cowardly to address. We are not in the 1700s anymore, and there is no reason to hunt with bazookas or rapid fire weapons.

    July 26, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  13. Fred

    I say ban AK 47s. Why do you want a medium range very inaccurate riffle made in Russia or China when we have the best fire arms manaufactures here in the United States?

    July 26, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  14. Cfox

    So misinformed and such a fool. Kalishnikov AK-47's are illegal anyway, yet they make there way here? Funny, they are illegal here, yet for 25 dollars you can walk into a street side market in most of the 3rd world countries and buy one. You can also thank Russia for saturating the markets with those weapons.

    July 26, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  15. NoBama

    AK47's are really designed for really, really bad presidents. Like rat poison is designed for rats.

    July 26, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  16. Fred

    I guess he needs to pander to someone.

    July 26, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  17. Lou Cypher

    The irony is that speeches like this invariably cause sales of semi-auto carbines to increase dramatically.
    Ask any gun dealer: Federal anti-gun political rhetoric sells more guns than any other form of advertising.

    July 26, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  18. PEC

    He has been Commander in Chief for how long and still does not know that our soldiers do not use the AK-47? In fact as we treat the enemy we fight under the Geneva Convention, then what he is saying is the individuals that we fight and kill US soldiers should be armed.

    July 26, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  19. sunsudo

    Meanwhile on the other side of town Odummer and holder provide those weapons to drug cartels.

    July 26, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  20. Cfox

    Background checks? Wow, I don't know about how things are done in Colorado but where I am from, it is a 7 day waiting period when you purchase the weapon, and prior to being issued your license to carry, it is a loooooooooong wait while the Deparment of Mental Health and the Criminal Justice Bureau research your background. Knee jerk comments from a President that has done zero research on the topic.

    July 26, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  21. Marci

    I agree 100% Mr President. There is no need for assault weapons on the streets of America

    July 26, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  22. Tony in NC

    Too bad the NRA wont let Congress reinstate the assault weapons ban that we had as law for so many years under both parties. Common sense should prevail when it comes to public safety. Any hunter or sportsman worth their salt has no need for military grade weapons or high capacity ammo clips. As far as personal safety, my .357 Smith and Wesson revolver (only 6 shots) is more than enough fire power to deal with any armed attacker that I could imagine ever encountering. I think that alot of paranoid people have too much influence within lobbying groups like the NRA.

    July 26, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  23. Mark

    Im a conservative but I agree with Obama completely. Unlike other liberals he calls for gun control not gun abolishment. The old lady being robbed needs a handgun to protect herself not an AK 47.

    July 26, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  24. zeyn2010

    So true! Also, I don't see how arming the civilians could possibly be the way to end violence and crime...

    July 26, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  25. W.

    So what are we looking at: another Brady Bill? Statistics show that it was a waste of tax-payer money and did nothing to keep "assault rifles" out of the hands of criminals. The boy also made a bomb out of lots of excess gasoline he purchased. Are they going to make laws to keep the mentally ill and criminals from purchasing too much gasoline?

    July 26, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
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