December 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET
10 years ago

In shooting aftermath, what does Obama mean by ‘meaningful action?’

Washington (CNN) - A moved President Barack Obama on Friday appeared to promise to tackle gun violence in his second term, speaking just hours after a gunman left 20 students and six adults dead at a Connecticut elementary school.

But supporters of tighter gun control measures want to see more: specifics on his call for the country to “come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

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The call, which he repeated on Saturday in his weekly address, was for action on an issue that has not been a priority for his administration.

As a candidate in 2008, Obama supported reinstating the assault weapon legislation that expired in 2004. Among other restrictions, the law limited the ammunition magazine capacity of these heavy-duty rifles.

But a renewal fell by the wayside, and the president received a dismal review from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the most visible gun-control advocacy groups.

“President Obama’s first-year record on gun violence prevention has been an abject failure,” the group wrote in a 2010 report, adding, “his campaign promises have gone unfulfilled and a year’s worth of opportunities to bring sanity to the gun issue have been lost.”

Should he want to bring forward legislation now, Obama faces a major obstacle: Congress. Even the Democratic-controlled Senate has shown little appetite to touch the controversial issue.

Multiple gun control bills have been introduced in recent years, but not a single one has advanced to a floor vote.
Gun-control advocates say if there ever was an urgency to push for tough new legislation, it is in the wake of Friday’s attack in Connecticut.

Images of terrified children, grief-stricken parents and a quiet community rocked by violence have been splashed across front pages and screens. Obama will visit Newtown, Connecticut, Sunday evening and will speak at an interfaith vigil for the families, the White House said late Saturday.

“This time what I saw was different, that politicians (who) usually don’t talk about it were talking about it,” Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York, said in an interview with CNN. “Maybe the pendulum is turning and the country is ready to get serious about this issue.”

She lost her husband in a 1993 mass shooting that killed five others and severely injured her son.

McCarthy said she and others who have been touched by this violence should make their voices heard.

“I know it’s a sensitive area, but I, who certainly suffered losing my husband and having my son certainly injured severely, I have the right to speak about it,” she said. “And other victims have the right to speak about it.”

Those involved in the debate over guns say the president has several options.

He could advocate reinstating the assault weapons ban, the expired measure from 1994, or pursue similar measures such as banning high-count magazines.

Or he could approach the issue from a different direction, urging improvements to mental-health reporting that would disqualify unhealthy individuals from purchasing firearms.

Polls have shown that support for strengthened gun restrictions has remained largely unchanged in the wake of past mass shootings. A CNN/ORC International poll conducted in August - weeks after the mass shooting at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado – found limited support for either no restrictions on firearms or making all guns illegal.

Thirty-seven percent of American adults supported minor restrictions on gun ownership, while 38% supported major restrictions. One in 10 favored making all guns illegal, and 13% favored no restrictions.

Since Friday’s shooting, some have said the time for debating gun law reforms is too soon, as it would appear to politicize the issue.

“I think that is a conversation I'm going to have with my colleagues and today I'm not going to discuss it out of respect to the families,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told CNN on Saturday. “But I'm going to go to Washington and I'm going to raise this issue, and I think it's time for the conversation to be renewed, for the dialogue to begin again, and for the Senate to consider whether that type of action is necessary.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, urged the president to be more specific.

"Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action,” he said in a Friday statement. “We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress."

He was one of the first to criticize Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over their gun-policy stances in the wake of the Aurora shooting, which left 12 people dead and 58 wounded, and a separate shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

McCarthy urged Obama to use his podium to advocate for legislation which might bring an end to these tragedies.

“Let's face it,” she said, “we need to have the president as the bully pulpit on trying to get something done.”

Filed under: 2012 • Gun rights • President Obama
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. david eberhardt

    I think it would be meaningful to list the politicians who voted to repeal the assault weapon ban? What might be a word to describe them? One I can think of? Accomplice.

    December 16, 2012 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  2. Tony in Maine

    I hope he's talking about a prohibition of possession of assault weapons and clips for more than five r ounds of ammunition. Any hunter who claims he needs a ten round or 30 round clip should not be allowed in the woods. The 2nd Amendment does not guarantee unfettered access to all weapons – civilians cannot own machine guns without a Treasury Dept permit (not easy to come by) so that argument is specious.

    December 16, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  3. kevin

    What do you do when our government was gun running to Mexico? How do you undo centuries of gun ownership that made this country? Our founding fathers purposely put in the 2nd Admendent because they knew a government is less likely to try to suppress a armed citizenery. Guns are too embeded in our culture to just throw a switch and undo everything. You can't compare us to the UK because we are a way bigger country. So you tighten gun controls through better use of technology that is available. I find hard to believe that gun shop owners don't have some type of online database they can check quickly for persons w/criminal records or mental illness who they shouldn't be selling to. Also remember just because you tighten controls doesn't mean these crazy people won't find another way to carry out their madness.

    December 16, 2012 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  4. A Kickin` Donkey

    Since I can`t outwardly call for it let short of say it like this: Between Columbine High, Virginia Tech, Aurora Colorado Movie Theatre, Oakland religious school, Oregon mall, Arizona [Gabby Giffords, et al.] welve lost MORE THAN 100 people to assualt weaspons and/or high capacity magazine clips. There is no "I`m a `sportsman` [HA!] rationale for either of those two items. Furtherstill the whole 2nd Ammendment thing is a specious arguement. Rather than over 100 innocent citizens, including 20+ SIX YEAR OLDS having been slaughtered, America would be better off if Wayne LaPierre, Chalrton Heston, Grover Norquist, and 97 other gun / NRA worshiping members of Congress could be mystically switched out for them. Then maybe meaningful action could occur on a National level.

    What can Obama do unilaterally? He need to focus on immigration reform, Tax fairness reform, Clean Energy & a new electrical distribution grid, baysitting Syria/Iran/North Korea, and enforcing fair International trade to build jobs here. All of which are higher prioritiy.

    Obama should not take action that will allow DEMS to be portrayed as "soft on crime" . Dems need the Whitehouse at least one more time in 2016 to remake the Federal judiciary – this will yield the BIGGEST liberal benefits for the nation. Now perhaps he can sign a gun-crippling executive order AFTER DEMS win the 2016 election

    December 16, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  5. GOP = Greed Over People

    As a single gun owner, I would never advocate a gun ban, however, it is way pass time to reassess the need for the general populace to own assault rifles and extended ammunition clips. I am not sure what the answer is, but i am sure it should be discussed.

    All of you that suuport private ownership of assault weapons, need to take a close look at little Emilie, then imagine the carnage on that sweet angel's face after 11 bullets fired in rapid succession. Imagine, if you can, the horror of witnessing this horrible assault on her friends and more unspeakable, imagine the terror she experienced while awaiting her turn.

    And before you yammer on about madmen will use knives to kill and cause mayhem, let me point out that on the same day, 22 Chinese children were indeed attacked by a knife wielding assailant, and all survived.

    It is indeed a sad day and all of America should weep, when we pray, if only the Sandy Hook madman had attacked 20 first graders using a knife.

    There must be a societal shift after this, we cannot let this slaughter of innocents be for naught!

    December 16, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  6. Tony

    All of this is an unfortunate incident. Gun control is not the answer. My rights as a law abiding citizen must not be infringed upon. Gun ownership is a right givin to me by the constitution. The Supreme Court argued the measure of the second amendment. This crazy man that committed this hanus act of violence was bound to fulfill his actions using any means possible at his disposal, meaning if he didn't have access to a gun he would have used his car, a fire bomb, a knife or sword, the evil is in the heart of the man that committed these crimes. I have always said that a gun is a tool as good or as bad as the man that posses it. We need to change the hearts of man and punish those individuals that dare to break these laws of moral desensy. I pray for those who were lost and their families. May God Bless Them...

    December 16, 2012 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  7. Richard fiori

    We need to get together and silence once and for all the NRA, and join the rest of the world who have civilized and responsible gun LAWS

    JOIN: End the NRA terror – Now is the time

    December 16, 2012 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  8. ted

    What it means is that the politicans in Washington need to actually do something to earn their keep. How about trying to interdict more deeply at ports and borders for guns and drugs, the two things killing people in the USA. How about onerous regulations on the manufacture, selling and ownership of guns as in tax the hell out of it all along the supply chain from raw materials to purchase? How about making gun licenses very expensive with endless training courses that cost a lot of money? How about going after the gangs and mobs and criminals? all the idiots inside the Beltway will do is pass another watered down bill that is unenforceable. The GOP is behold to Wayne Lapierre of the NRA the way they are suck ups to Grover Norquist. The GOP is so impotent when it comes to taking care of WE THE PEOPLE. All they care about is THEM THE RICH, THEM THE CONTRIBUTORS, THEM THE ONES THAT SUPPOSEDLY CREATE JOBS BUT DON'T ACXTUALLY DO THAT. Tired of the GOP.
    But then the Democrats need to stop being impotent also and run on the mandate that Obama got on Election Day.

    Tired of the same ole same ole

    December 16, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  9. Marie MD

    I hope it means no moreo assault rifles for "normal" citizens. There's no need to have a weapon that can fire that many rounds per second. Some of these poor innocent victims were shot 3-11 times by a high power rifle!!
    The b s about hunting is also null and void You shoot an animal that many times there's nothing left worth saving unless you have a thirst for blood and killing.
    The latest we hear is that the mother of this monster had many guns because she wanted to be safe when "it" happened. She sounds like one of the tea trolls and their country needing to be saved from "those not like us". Well lady, look what your paranoia did to yourself and others. Happy now?

    December 16, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  10. rla

    Yep let's blame an inanimate object for the results of a human and the destruction of our culture by the progressives. What a man!!!!

    December 16, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
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