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. n8r0n

    Obama can't really fault opposition (from the GOP or NRA) to progress on gun violence until he grows a spine, and brings himself to forcefully state the obvious:

    "our gun laws are too lax, and to keep them that way in order to preserve the tradition of hunting, and overcompensating for small wee sees, is idiotic".

    July 25, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  2. kepa

    obama has no idea what he is talking about, when its about guns!

    July 25, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  3. MattM

    "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." I agree Mr. President...but with one distinction...I AM a soldier. Maybe not a career military member but as a US citizen, I am a member of the Militia and under the 2nd Amendment as recognized by the Supreme Court, firearm ownership is an individual right. Us gun owners believe we should have the right to carry the same firearms as a standard infantry soldier.

    July 25, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  4. Paul

    I was a bit worried that afew days went by before you said this.
    You've made me proud Mr. President.

    July 25, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  5. israel

    more gun laws are not the answer, we have enough as it is and they help enough....no what we need is to make sure we get stable people with these guns in hand, even if you have to microchip every single gun in the country to track them....that would be a good start, and while ak 47's and ar15's are definately overkill for the average citizen they are necessary for defensive purposes and shouldn't be banned, you can restrict clip sizes and bullet types but those weapons are crucial for stopping a home invasion

    in the meantime the best protection against gun violence is to increase police forces nationwide......more police on the streets=faster response times=less people who end up dead or hurt

    July 25, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  6. ludvig

    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." This gun owner agrees.

    July 25, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  7. Patrick

    I'm a gun owner. I have been for years but it is only common sense for us to admit that there are weapons available to the public that shouldn't be. There is no good reason the average person should be able to purchase a tactical shotgun or an assault rifle.

    July 25, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  8. Ton

    Soldiers use m16s or other new weapons, AK47s were developed in The communist USSR. The shooter used an AR15.

    Obama does not even know what country he is from.

    July 25, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  9. rich

    If the movie massacre punk would have used pipe bombs would we be discussing a ban on nails and pipe. Wicked minds will always find a tool for death and no ban on anything will stop them

    July 25, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  10. Andrew From Canada

    Man I wish Gun Laws were this lax in Canada as they are in US, we have to jump through soo many hoops to even get a hunting rifle.. handguns are even more tougher to obtain..
    So anyways to my fellow Americans here is my suggestion..
    Make it a Law to Carry a Gun! everyone over 18 MUST carry a gun, so whenever threats like these break out.. average people can take care of the lunatic.

    2nd Amendment is the greatest amendment in the entire world!!
    God bless the USA! and remember to carry your handgun!

    July 25, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  11. jeremy

    "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."

    Then explain why the Mexican drug cartel is running around with AK-47's which were supplied by the US government, courtesy of the Fast and Furious program? I guess they could be considered soldiers, yeah good job Obama.

    July 25, 2012 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  12. ATLmatt

    I am proud of my President. There need to restrictions on gun control.

    July 25, 2012 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  13. ben

    Really then why are our cop's carrying AR's on our city street's ?

    July 25, 2012 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  14. James

    There should be complete and thorough background checks when you try to purchase a firearm but nothing else should stand in your way from that purchase once you pass that check. Banning anything does work. You'd figure people would have common sense and understand that.

    July 25, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  15. Thomas Jefferson

    "When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." – Thomas Jefferson

    July 25, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  16. George Washington

    I believe Obama should be in the hands of North Korea, not America.

    July 25, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  17. t3chn0ph0b3

    Ugh! Obama! You've been so good so far! How did you let the press back you into an answer like this?!? Noooo!

    July 25, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  18. joe

    Right – AK47s shouldn't be on the street, get them off fast and furiously.

    July 25, 2012 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  19. spiris333

    "These steps shouldn't controversial. They should be common sense," said obama. There's trouble right there with that statement because liberals do not have common sense. Liberals in general would like to ban all firearms, and someone should investigate bloomberg for his fanatical anti-gun stance, and his loony laws banning large sodas and alcohol. We need to remember it's the liberals who are chipping away at our American freedoms, and we do not need these fools in government.

    July 25, 2012 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  20. Hugo Agogo

    Great speech Barry but your writers should be smart enough to know that this crazy person didn't use an AK-47, it was an AR-15 variant. AK-47s are made in China, Russia and other communist countries, so we can forgive the Freudian slip around your political ideology. He could have killed more people had he used his bombs in the theater.

    July 25, 2012 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  21. GoRemote

    I don't recall any hearing about AK-47s being used in many crimes in the U.S. Not saying it's never happened, but certainly it's not common. And I don't believe any of the mass shootings in the U.S. involved the use of AK-47's either.

    July 25, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  22. S. Winkler

    This is the time to pass legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons-this is a non political issue and could possibly be passed into law. This is a chance for the do nothing Congress to DO SOMETHING.

    July 25, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  23. Jason

    I'm not an Obama fan at all but nobody republican or democrat needs to make this sad time about politics . Let our president comfort the families so they know all of America is praying for them . Let all of us put our differences aside and take care of our fellow Americans

    July 25, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  24. scott bleyle

    Look up his biography,party,travel,matriculate.This guy was groomed for the Ivory Tower,I doubt he ever worked with his hands and his back let alone served in the armed forces.Commander In Chief my eye,Socialist/communist elitist,I know a man who went to school with him.Bloomberg and Obama and others work towards "One World Order" Ben Franklin said "those who would trade freedom for temporary security,deserve neither." 1939 wasn't that ago long,those who do not learn from the past are doomed to relive it.

    July 25, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  25. PaulMN

    Obama doesn't get it. The Bill of rights is to protect the US citizens from the Federal Government becoming tyrannical. An AK-47 is exactly what you need to protect yourself against a tyrannical government (not a shotgun or a .22 caliber pistol). If there's one thing that the US learned from Viet Nam or Afghanistan... it's that the US Government forces cannot win against a citizenry armed with AK-47's (or any other assault rifle). Maybe Obama does understand this and wants to make sure no US Citizen has adequate arms to defend itself against the US Gov't going rogue.

    July 25, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
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