July 25th, 2012
09:51 PM ET
8 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. Kenton Woods

    Crazy people don't obey the laws!!!! There should have been a security guard in the building!!!!

    July 25, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  2. Patriot

    Ak-47s belong in the hands of Americans who cherish the privilege of freedom. Obama can babysit people who want less freedom.

    July 25, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  3. bam

    OMG 4 years the gNOp has been waiting for an anti gunz tid bit!!!! buy up all that ammo! oh wait its already all bought up

    July 25, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  4. Chuck D

    Then why did Obama send assault weapons to Mexican gangsters on purpose through operation Fast and Furious?

    July 25, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  5. Clint

    Does the President know that the AK-47 is a Russian firearm? Does he think they belong in the hands of Russian Soldiers? Oh I hope not.

    July 25, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  6. Solar

    Obama is the real man. way to go professor Obama.

    July 25, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  7. umadbro?

    funny how he mentions AK-47 and not the gun which is basically a M16, which the US military uses.. ooh politics at its best.

    2nd, yes it shouldnt be in the hands of criminals, buy he wasn't a criminal to begin with.

    3rd No one is going to tell me what gun I can own and how much ammo i can carry.

    July 25, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  8. David Kuklinski

    Yep, already feeling justified at stocking up this weekend.

    July 25, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  9. mark

    And so it begins. If this type of talk from a president doesn't scare Americans, then we are truly a lost cause.
    From my cold dead hands.

    July 25, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  10. Silence do good

    Obama made some good points...I disagree with gun control as a whole however. I live in a state where guns far out populate it's people and we very seldom have an issue with guns. I always point back to the fact that weather its an AK-47 or an old fashioned musket...guns don't kill people, the people using them do. The point I liked that Obama made was at the end talking about how "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," I agree with that, we need to reform out society. We have become so disconnected as a country. We need to get back to the basics of family, and the importance each of us has. I DO NOT blame violent video games, violent movies, or violent music for what seems to be an escalation of violence over the past 25 years. I blame us all, our society.

    July 25, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  11. threedownonetogo

    When you start separating "Soldier" vs. "Citizen" you start a trend of "Gov't' vs. "People" and eventually "Us" vs. "Them." The Second Amendment isn't about hunting. It's about citizens being on equal ground with each other and the government. Citizens being able to guard the liberty of their family, themselves and their fellow countrymen. Some will say "Why would one need an AK-47?" Well that's a fallacious argument because 1) why does anyone need anything besides basic sustenance? As in why do you need a certain type of car? Or why do you need to drink alcohol? Our lives have evolved beyond basic needs. 2) We do need to own weapons capable of adequate defense. In today's day and age that is the semi-automatic rifle. Whether an AK-47, AR-15, M1A etc. These are weapons with the necessary capabilities of defense of our homes and our country against tyranny inside and out. These weapons are not evil they are tools that in the hands of good saves lives and defends our country. For the quality of the person wielding the weapon is determined by their character not the tool in their hand. The media portrays gun owners as some kind of adolescent rambo types who are dangerous to society. I've yet to meet these imaginary people. All the gun owners I've met so far are stand up citizens. 3) We should not be ruled by the actions of the few. Meaning the small percentage of criminals who choose to do evil with firearms should not be used as the template of the law abiding gun owner and thusly having legislation passed to restrict gun ownership. 4) Firearms to provide a great benefit to our society. Yes their is a cost.... as there is with every liberty but the benefits outweigh the costs greatly. Lives are saved everyday with firearms. It rarely makes the news since usually nobody is shot. 5) Today is not the future. We do not know what the future holds for this country. We do not know if a tyrant will come to power or an enemy will attack. France did not have the foresight to see Germany gaining strength and invading after WWI and we did not foresee the attack on Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Centers. Times change and we need to be ready for what comes forth in the future, a future that we cannot predict. We need to be able to defend this great nation of ours and without a firearms culture and tradition steeped in the goodness of our fellow Citizen and firearms worthy of defending liberty we are at the mercy of others who will strip of us of that liberty just as some politicians want to strip us of our arms.

    July 25, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  12. DJ

    Pandora's box is already open...

    July 25, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  13. Daytona21

    By "soldiers", Obama means "foreign soldiers", right? Especially since US soldiers do not use AK-47's, right? But he knew that...right?

    July 25, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    i believe d president is right.

    July 25, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    The president says assault weapons are better suited for armed government soldiers than civilians. The purpose of the second amendment is not just about hunting or the right to shoot a few rounds for target practice on the range – it exists specifically so that we the people can be on equal ground with armed government soldiers to protect ourselves from a military dictatorship

    July 25, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  16. Jim

    So you either have to be a soldier or a criminal?

    July 25, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  17. Total2199

    "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."

    Will someone educate him that there are no AK-47s in exsistence, they are all AKMs now....

    July 25, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  18. Name F.B.Castillo

    Mr.Obama ;
    Please as a Police Officer for almost 20 yrs.,
    wake up! If the Mexican Drug Lords can get Automatic guns from Eric Holder and other gun dealers,along with gangs. Why shouldn't the American people have the same right. Oh that's right You along with Hillary Clinton feel there should be a Gun
    Ban, FORCED on the U.S. along with the American People. Remember one thing, the U.S. Military sore a oath, to protect this Country from Enemies both foreign and domestic. They can not Obey Unlawful Orders according to the UCMJ, so remember how many troops there are, along with the number of veterans there are!

    July 25, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  19. The-Voices

    I agree that there is no need for your average citizen to own an AK. I'm all for someone owning a gun if they want one, but unrestricted gun ownership is overboard.

    I'm also for responsible gun ownership, which means having actual training with a weapon. I think it should be mandatory for any carry permits. This isn't just a hurdle to make carry permits to be harder to get, but rather to save lives by giving training on how and when to actually use a gun.

    People keep saying that if people had guns in the movie theater then fewer people would have been killed, but given the details about it, low light, smoke, gas, tight crowds, and panicking people, I think more people would have been killed from stray bullets or people shooting at the wrong person.

    July 25, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  20. Patriot

    The president says assault weapons are better suited for armed government soldiers than civilians. The purpose of the second amendment is not just about hunting or the right to shoot a few rounds for target practice on the range – it exists specifically so that we the people can be on equal ground with armed government soldiers to protect ourselves from a military dictatorship

    July 25, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  21. Bob

    I need an AK-47 for self protection.

    July 25, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  22. J

    Doesn't OBama know there is a difference between AR-15's and AK's? I mean wasn't it an AR dude was using or am I missing something...

    July 25, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  23. T. Lee

    You can't defend against crazies or the criminally-minded simply by banning gun sales. Such ones will simply use other means to accomplish their goal.

    Remember Timothy McVeigh ?? He used fertilizer to kill 169 people including 19 children under six years old !!

    So – unarmed and helpless – or at least have the chance to defend yourself and others with you ??

    One example of the benefits of legal, concealed carry by law abiding citizens:

    WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) July 8, 2012, "The Providence Journal":

    "Authorities say there was a shootout at a Wilmington park as a soccer tournament was being played.

    "One person was killed and several others were hurt. (-> NOTE:...keep reading ! )

    "Capt. Nancy Dietz tells The News Journal three men began firing into a crowd at Eden Park and some people in the crowd fired back.

    "The three men fled in a vehicle, but it crashed a few blocks away.

    "One of the men was found in the vehicle and had been shot multiple times. He was later pronounced dead."

    So – at least in THIS instance the only person who died was one of the attackers because and ONLY because several in the crowd were able to repel the attack by returning fire !!!

    How many in the crowd would have died if they had not been able to do so and the attackers were able to continue firing at will ??

    No one can say for sure – but almost certainly more than the ZERO resulting from others returning the attacker's fire.

    The same could have been true in Colorado. If even one person could have returned fire – even though the shooter was protected from head to toe by body armor – he would at least have been distracted and focused on the one shooting back which would have allowed many if not all but the one returning fire to escape.

    No doubt someone able to return fire in such an example would be willing to make that trade – the protection of self or at least the ability to try – and buy others time to escape regardless of danger to self !!

    July 25, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  24. matt

    We have the right to own guns...we have the right to bear arms...theses are rights..dont take them away because of this shooting...if everyone was armed in that theatre we would be talking about one dead phsycotic idiot...

    July 25, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  25. D. Richard

    AK-47? I thought the Colorado shooter was armed with an American made AR-15. It is my understanding that the AR-15 is a semi-automatic where the AK-47 is a full automatic rifle produced by various eastern bloc country's.

    July 25, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
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