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. onemanspeaks

    I believe AK's belong on the battlefields and not the streets too. However, sometimes the streets can be battlefields.

    President Obama is right by not messing with the current gun laws and not establishing new ones. I don't own a gun but if I need one I should be able to get what is needed.

    One of the most awesome things I've ever done is fire an M-60 down range. NOT THAT WAS SOME POWER!

    July 25, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  2. George

    And I agree with him

    July 25, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  3. UtahProf

    The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms so that "We the People" have a mechanism to overthrow our government should it become tyrannical. It has nothing to do with hunting or personal protection – although both of those are also nice benefits of firearm ownership. I only have two words for the president and our politicians – Molon Labe!

    July 25, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  4. Duke

    Perhaps Obama is mostly silent on the issue of guns because of his failed political stunt called Fast and Furious. This Chicago gangster in office knows that any talk about guns will move the topic of his involvement in Fast and Furious and we already know he doesn't want to go there, right Mr. Holder?

    July 25, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  5. Tom

    I thought I read on CNN that the Batman kid used Glock pistols (the same ones law enforcement use), not AK-47s?

    July 25, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  6. kaka

    second amendment is at risk, where is the tea party. lets gather in texas this week. hahaaaaa

    July 25, 2012 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  7. jjj

    Yeah in the hands of muslim soldiers like the
    one that shot his own fellow soldiers

    July 25, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  8. iBod

    ..."the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals..."
    EXACTLY! The problem is we have Americans who are so paranoid they believe we live in a totalitarian state where the government will attack them at any second. The other problem is these same people are likely undereducated so much so that they are unaware what is going on here in the United States is nothing in comparison to what is going on in the Middle East where everyone and their mother owns a rifle!

    Rid them from all stores.The argument, But I hunt, is one of the worst excuses. Stop crying! You think humans just started hunting when the rifle was invented? Put some thrill back into the sport...How easy it is to kill a bear with one shot one hundred yards away from danger. I'd like to see people going back to the old Bow and Arrow! It's always that uncertainty of survival that should be part of hunting - because as the food chain goes, humans were once the hunted. Now look at what's happened. We are overpopulating this planet. We need the stupid to do the stupid. You want to eat that bear, go right up to its face and cut it with a knife. Let's see how fast you last before it knocks you unconscious and eats you. Guns are too quick; too easy; too cowardly.

    July 25, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  9. wrm

    Good to see the president has no knowledge of the things he wishes to conrol.

    So, does this mean I can have an SKS? Does it mean I can have an AR10? an AR15? A Dragonov? How about a custom?

    Bah, why even bother, the President doesn't know anything, preaching to the usual suspects, or maybe both.

    July 25, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  10. Eagle

    Over 100000 people in the USA hurt a year by guns. More than 30000 killed a year in gun violence. Are we Americans proud of these numbers? If people say that the USA is the most violent country on earth, are they slandering us or they are telling the truth? How about if one of the 30000 is your family? Should something be done?

    July 25, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  11. Crom2112

    Obama would know all about AK-47s since they were developed by the USSR. Our military does not use them at all except for very rare occasions.

    July 25, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  12. sahara

    He that has ears, let them hear

    July 25, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  13. Guitar

    Thank You, finally a politician willing to talk rational and sanely! BTW I am a gun owner, fervently believe if someone wishes to own a pistol or rifle, that is their right. But I totally agree – No One needs to have an AK-47, AR-15 or any other weapon of that capacity! I also am Not a supporter of the NRA and have not been for over ten years, when I stepped back and realized really what was happening with that 'organization'. That group has become nothing but a money machine for Wayne LaPierre and his tight gang of buddies, so they can feed their lavish lifestyles, while duping their members into thinking they're actually looking out for them. Heir LaPierre continues to feed lies, fear mongering, and anything else that'll stoke the paranoia of his lackeys, as long as it keeps the money pouring in. I am really amazed we haven't seen him raise his arm in a stiff salute like that was so prominent 70 years ago in Germany. That megalomaniac really needs to go! But he doesn't care how many people die as long as Nobody 'tells him what to do'. Pathetic and Sad!

    July 25, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  14. Crint East a wood

    Great. So take them away from criminals, not law abiding citizens. Get on it.

    July 25, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  15. NeverRunAway

    The president just lost my vote. AK47s belong in the hands of those who protect the citizens of the united states of America from those that would seek to remove them. And before someone trash talks the NRA recall they fight for your rights even if you CHOOSE not to participate in using them. Any REAL liberal MUST choose CHOICE. ROMNEY just became the solution, the problem IS the president.

    July 25, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  16. cali818

    Automatic weapons weren't invented then the Second Amendment was out in force. I just don't believe this is what our forefathers envisioned.

    July 25, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  17. TsF

    i feel so much sorrow for the familys that have lost a loved one due to theacts of others,due to there actions of hate,anger or pure hatred! i also feel that these people that are carrying out the mindless acts are the ones who should be held accountable not everyone else. we as parents should enforce this in our children that for every action is a reaction and if you are wrong then you are wrong, stop blaming someone else and face it,own your faults and take responsibility. times are not like they were 15-20-25 years ago

    July 25, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  18. Mark

    AK-47s have been banned for a long time. The fully automatic version he is speaking of was actually banned in the 1930's prior to its invention of it. So what is his point? We all agree that the 1930's gun laws should be enforced?

    July 25, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  19. Name Gina

    Too many years have gone by and the government is not "In Control" of a person who is "Out of Control". There is no such thing of "Gun Control". If the government can't make every state have the same laws when it comes to owning or using a gun, the govenment will always fail. If every state have the same law for guns, then the govenment will have a better chance of "Gun Control". Until then we all are at a lost. Don't bother to put it on the ballot, unless all states have one law, and that's where we'll see the government really taking control. It's not the guns out of control it's the people in control. I don't know why the government want us to believe they are really trying to do something. The day they say "One Law For Guns" put it on the ballot, I vote "Yes"

    July 25, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  20. Rich

    Absolutely correct, Mr. President. AK-47 assult rifles are for soldiers not hunters. Can you imagine what the rabbit will look like and how much meat is left after a hunter empties a magazine of .762×39 bullets into a 3 pound rabbit, or even a 150 pound deer. I could not agree more. No, I am not some "get rid of guns" person. I am a gun owner, military veteran, and have a Conceiled Carry Permit.

    July 25, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  21. vet4life63

    The 2nd amendment isn't about hunting in case you didn't know. I know, I know, your going to say "but this isn't 1775". Your right this isn't 1775. That's why a AR15 or a AK47 would be more in line with protecting against a tyrannical Govt, should the need arise. The founding Fathers had thought about that, and wanted the people to have a way to fight back. A musket won't do anymore sorry.

    July 25, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  22. vet4life63

    There are more than 22,000 gun laws at the city, county, state, and federal level. If gun control worked, then we should be free of crime

    July 25, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  23. Reality Check

    Do either Obama or Romney listen to what they are saying? They want to use existing laws only to increase the ability of the states and federal government to find threats like Holmes. Problem is, there is no law that would allow the government to identify someone like Holmes as the NRA has written gun laws to make it as easy as possible for *anyone* to obtain just about any gun with no means for the government to monitor those purchases. The whole reason for Fast and Furious, btw, was to get around the law of not being able to create a database of gun purchases by citizens - the FBI instead had to purchase the guns and introduce them into the supply of guns going to the Mexican drug cartels.

    July 25, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  24. vet4life63

    I bought 2 Ak47's tonite. Want to make sure, that if and when the gungrabbers ban them, I have 1 to pass on for each of my son's. They will surely need them for the revolution or civil war that will one day come, probably in their life times. I don't need them, but to be free they probably will.

    July 25, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  25. vet4life63

    Americans used to roar like lions for liberty, now we bleat like sheep for security. A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves

    July 25, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
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