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. Col. Forbin

    Recently during a bachelor party I went to a shooting range. It was the first time I ever fired a weapon. One of the guns was an AR-15. Which is very similar to the AK-47. I was surprised to see that it was really just a rifle. It just looked like a crazy machine gun. But they are really just rifles, no different from your run of the mill hunting rifle. Obama should be more educated before making more speeches about this issue.

    July 26, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  2. Dustin

    President Obama and the rest of the leftist elite need to realize that government control is not the answer. We will never be able to prevent violence by removing the objects we believe are causing the harm. We should look so far as our prison system. It is full of deadly violence because people find ways that are extremely creative despite complete lockdown.

    July 26, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  3. Keel Hauler

    But it wasn't an AK-47 used in the colorado shooting. And on those rare occasions when they are used by criminals, they are stolen. So how does regulating those guns through legislation accomplish anything?

    July 26, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  4. Andy B

    Obama needs to learn about guns. An Ak-47, besides not being the gun the batman shooter used, is actually not a very accurate or powerful gun compared to a common 30-06 deer riffle.

    July 26, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  5. Justin

    It's Funny, because when was the Last time an AK was used in a crime the US? Certainly not in COlorado, where he used two pistols and an AR 15

    July 26, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  6. Jako

    Obama just lost my vote.

    July 26, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  7. dbmed

    This week in Texas, a single crash involving a pickup truck killed 13 people. I guess we need to ban pickup trucks too. Banning so called assault weapons will have no effect on violent crime. The problem is human behavior, and I don't think that there is a government solution for that.

    July 26, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  8. 2tor

    Here we go, what we knew alll along. AK's don't shoot any larger bullet than most deer rifles. It's just a different shape is all. Why do we have to have these ig norant conversations every few years.

    July 26, 2012 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  9. Gary

    Go Obama Go, however to go for gun control is an up hill battle .. no pun .. the GOP is in bed with the NRA and niether care about safty for people just money

    July 26, 2012 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  10. H Troffler

    Hmmmm.....what can I say this week that they will want to hear.....

    July 26, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  11. Grim Reaper

    If you're going to lose an election-go big.

    July 26, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  12. Andrew

    I will not vote for someone who wants to ban assault weapons. It didn't work the first time.

    July 26, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  13. Chris

    Agreed. People don't need to be carrying AK-47's on the street. I certainly hope this isn't considered an extreme opinion. There are probably many pro-gun advocates who believe the same.

    July 26, 2012 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  14. bigdoglv

    "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." So passing more laws will help? Which criminals obey laws? Enforce the current laws, but you can't, so pass more? The problem is the criminal not the gun.

    July 26, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  15. Raph Gentry

    Obama shouldn't worry about offending the NRA and it's supporters – they're already offend by his administration. The president. his admistratoin and members of the Media clearly demonistrate there lack of knowledge of firearms and the thousand of laws governing their usage. The AK-47 (assalt weapon?) is an automatic weapon. These can only be legally owned by special permit. To the best of my knowledge the Aurora shooter did not use an automatic weapon. Yesteday film producer Mike Moore made comments to the effect "what would the president say if his daughters and been in the theater that night." Mr. Moore conviently forgets the presidents daughters have a Secreat Service detail at their disposal. I am confident federal agents would have delt with the situation quickly. Most tax payers don;t have a security deatil so they must rely on themselves for protection. One has to wonder what would have happended if one person in the theater that night had the will and determination to act. Oh yes, lets not forget the weapon(s) and permits to do so.

    July 26, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  16. Anonymous

    As a law abiding citizen I would happily give up my weapons if all of the criminals and crazy people out there gave theirs up too. So unless the government plans on sending out the troops to search every nook and cranny in this country for illegal weapons then I'll be holding on to my registered legal ones.

    July 26, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  17. Fred

    Firearms are different from what they were in the 18 century. It is time to evolve.

    July 26, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  18. joe

    You talk about political suicide! The numbers might have been close before but after this the President should start packing his bags now! The thing is we have the worst economy ever except for the dirty thirties, more people die every year from people driving drunk or high then from guns, our kids are uneducated or cannot afford college, Native Americans are dying due to poor health care and a nation that does not care about them, we have children being molested every minute of every day but we are worried about gun control, seriously! Where is the common sense in this? What has happen is tragic but the biggest problem is the political ignorance, I will bet anyone that after the President’s speech about gun control that in the next month gun sales will have doubled or even triple then in the past months of this year. Great we just put more guns in the hands of people that have no idea how to use them, way to go President Obama! Where was the common sense in this?

    July 26, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  19. idb

    Background checks are already in place. Obviously Obama does not know what he is talking about. There are plenty of laws on the books. What lacks is enforcement. It happens way too often that Liberal judges do not prosecute criminals found in the posession of firearms. As for the AK47, you can only get a sporterized version that looks like that gun in the US. They are used a lot in shooting sports. The only reason he speaks about it is because people will associate it with the real thing. Pathetic.

    July 26, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  20. Goose66

    Pressure from the left has gotten him to go back to gun control. He can speak all he wants, but he won't be able to put forward any legislation before the election, because there is no political will on the part of Democrats to do anything about it before the election. It's the right thing to do, but a political gamble.

    July 26, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  21. patricia chavez

    I think they should make the gun rules tougher by have a one year process to and background check to see if any one does have any physiocialy issues and by the time there done doing the one year background gives them that much more time to realize there bad intentions to go out and kill inocent human beings. MAKE THE RULES TOUGHER.

    July 26, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  22. Darth Cheney

    Ban assault weapons – now.

    July 26, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  23. Tom

    Obama does not speak for gun owners. He's always been anti-gun but afraid to stand up for his beliefs. I don't think he speaks for America either. He just says what he thinks you want to hear. That's why he's waited until now, after the tragedy to make this speech. He's what we call a slick Rick. I didn't vote for Obama but, I gave him a chance. His term has just been a bunch of broken promises. "I'll end the war", "I'll fix the deficit", etc. He's spent more of our money than any other president. He's driving this country to poverty. I'm ready for a change and I hope Romney can do better. All we ask is for some progress instead of this backward slide Obama doesn't seem to notice. He's out of touch with america, always was. Maybe he should have some more fundraisers or play some more golf instead of meeting with the job council or actually trying to fix the system. Worst president ever.

    July 26, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  24. Robert

    My AK-47, 100 rd mags and ammo are needed to protect myself from any potential attempt by Obama or his leftist thugs to
    take away my freedoms, including the right to own an AK-47. Guns such as AK's do belong only on the battlefield but that battlefield may be right here at home.

    July 26, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  25. Mike

    Can someone tell this idiot that the military uses M-16's and not AK-47's? The terrorists use AK-47's. And can someone tell him that the AR-15 that was used in Aurora is more like a normal rifle and much less like the M-16? The AR-15 is semi automatic, just like most other legal rifles. The M-16 is fully automatic and is illegal in most (if not all) states. The AR-15 just looks like an assault rifle. This is just one more reason why this idiot does not deserve another term.

    July 26, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
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