December 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET
8 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. Gurgyl

    Time to sign "GUN-CONTROL LAW".

    December 15, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  2. Jack Coe

    The focus is always on guns and gun control, but never on what has change culturally for these heinous acts to have become so commonplace.

    Since the 1870s, American arms manufacturers like S&W, Colt, Remington, Ruger, etc., have produced millions of weapons for domestic civilian consumption. Moreover, before 1968, any American adult could walk into a gun store, which were much more numerous than today, and walk out with as many guns and ammunition as they could afford without so much as showing an ID. Yet, crimes of this nature did not occur. Indeed, controlling for demographics, in the '50s, when gun control was minimal, gun crime was much, much lower than today. Why?

    The answer to this question is much more interesting to me than debating the relative merits of gun control measures.

    If the answer is that for reasons completely unrelated to gun availability, we are becoming a more impulsive, mentally unstable, violent society, then gun control will not save us from ourselves. We have better get busy figuring out how we've f'ed things up culturally, and figuring out how to fix it.

    December 15, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  3. Clarke

    Can we not think on "what did he mean". It is not the time or the place, leave it be. Save your story for another day and time. iMH O

    December 15, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  4. msbpodcast

    In Switzerland they have compulsory military service, weapons training, a gun locker in every home, get to take their rifles home after completing their service AND THEY HAVE A MUCH LOWER RATE OF GUN VIOLENCE.

    In the 'States, we seem to do everything half-assed and pay a horrendous toll in lost lives, lost opportunities, lost jobs.

    December 15, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  5. lrusso

    We don't need gun control, we need an investigation on mass shootings and prescription drugs used to treat mental health issues.

    December 15, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  6. Get Real - NJ

    We should also ban automobiles. Heck, if guns can't do the job, the psycho can just plow through a schoolyard with a Cadillac or a Hummer. Yeah... CARS MUST GO!! Let's force everyone to ride Mopeds, that way we can reduce the carnage.

    December 15, 2012 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  7. Nameterrence

    Im sorry 4 the loves ones tat lost they chidren my heart goes out

    December 15, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  8. David Shearer

    Let's not forget than when the 2nd Amendment was passed, the only firearms were single shot flintlocks. The question is would the Founding Fathers have passed the 2nd Amendment if there had been semi-automatic weapons available at that time? Guns today are very efficient. Would the Newtown assassin have got off more than one shot if he had a musket before being stopped? Wake up America before another slaughter of the innocents.

    December 15, 2012 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  9. David Rairigh

    The only change we need is to allow properly certified CCW in previously "gun-free" zones. The shooter didn't go get his weapons from Walmart, he illegally took them from his mother. There is no legislation that will stop a criminal from committing crimes. However, a CCW at the school may have stopped the shooter before he did a lot of damage.

    December 15, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  10. trooper

    About 250,000,000 Americans, myself included, have owned firearms most of our lives, served this nation on foreign soil, and have never once committed or considered comitting a crime. Arm teachers. Cowards avoid confrontation.

    December 15, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  11. Bill Holder

    Funny, I hadn't heard that Giffords was injured in CO

    December 16, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  12. charles jones

    giffords wasn't shot in aurora. (3rd graf from bottom)

    December 16, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  13. Name

    I would hope it means that he will finally put the issue of gun control front and center and not worry about the politics.

    December 16, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  14. RS

    Guns in the hands of the honest and responsible? Sure, that's the problem.

    Let's ignore the issue of mainstreaming and homecare for the seriously mentally ill. A 40 year old experiment which has filled our streets with homeless, and allowed crazed mass murderers to shoot their demons in our colleges, our malls, our schools and our theaters.

    Why must we ignore the schizophrenic elephant in the room?

    December 16, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  15. Hotdog

    I hope he means the discontinued sale of assault weapons and that a maximum amount of rounds can be held in a magazine. That would be good for starters.

    December 16, 2012 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  16. john

    It is a sad and inescapable fact but nothing will change as the logic to begin with is faulty and cannot be changed.  

    The killings will continue to escalate over time,  both in scale and frequency, as more and more people are convinced that having superior power is the only way to keep one self and one's family safe.  

    It is not to far fetched to imagine a future where armored vehicles with the fire power of tanks becomes available to the general public.  

    And when one of these runs amok and massacres whole communities, the those who favours might over reason will say   "If only those killed had an Apache Helicopter to take out the take.  Apache Helicopters should be made legal to those who are responsible so that they can defend themselves against tanks"  

    And so forth and so forth the future will be.  

    God have mercy on the souls of our children,  grandchildren and so forth. ..

    December 16, 2012 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  17. ThinkAgain - The GOP's policies are all PROVEN FAILURES

    1. #1 Close the loophole that allows unlimited purchase of firearms at gun shows without a background check.

    #2 Ban assault weapons.

    December 16, 2012 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  18. James Rabb

    While recently In Canada I watched an old episode of the West Wing in which the President made a speech following a bombing at a college, It is worth a view and his view of the problem and solution is worth a look.

    "'Joy cometh in the morning,' scripture tells us. I hope so. I don't know if life would be worth living if it didn't. And I don't yet know who set off the bomb at Kennison State. I don't know if it's one person or ten, and I don't know what they want. All I know for sure, all I know for certain, is that they weren't born wanting to do this. There's evil in the world, there'll always be, and we can't do anything about that. But there's violence in our schools, too much mayhem in our culture, and we can do something about that. There's not enough character, discipline, and depth in our classrooms; there aren't enough teachers in our classrooms. There isn't nearly enough, not nearly enough, not nearly enough money in our classrooms, and we can do something about that. We're not doing nearly enough, not nearly enough to teach our children well, and we can do better, and we must do better, and we will do better, and we will start this moment today! They weren't born wanting to do this."

    December 16, 2012 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  19. marita

    Reinstate assault weapons ban, restrict magazine-capacity! If need be, change the law to include mental health profile into background-checks! – Marita.

    December 16, 2012 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  20. Wise1Speak


    CNN's Brianna Keilar said: ". . . (Obama) promise to tackle gun violence in his second term . . .".
    = = = = =
    Six months from now the Lame Stream Media (LSM) will be holding President Obama responsible for "not keeping his promise" to take down the NRA. But everyone will forget that "no such promise" was ever made!

    December 16, 2012 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  21. Discernment


    (1.) – First, the Democrats attempt to enact common sense gun legislations that will help stem tide of the senseless killings of our babies in our schools, malls, theaters, parks, and streets.

    (2.) – Secondly, Republicans offer no solutions and do nothing to stop the senseless killings of American babies and their own kind (e.g. AZ. Representative Gabby Gifford).

    (3.) – Third, any Democratic Party attempts to enact legislations that would protect innocent lives from mindless gun killings is blunted by the NRA's $Billion dollar machine. Every Democrat who votes to enact common sense gun legislation will lose their political seats.

    (4.) – The Democrats lose elections to "do-nothing Republicans" because the GOP is paid by NRA Lobbyist to sit on their hands regarding gun legislations and allow the slaughter of American babies to continue so gun manufacturers can sell more guns.

    (5.) – Finally, NRA has defeated enough Democrats for Republicans to win control of the White House, Senate, House, Governorships, and State Legislatures. With Republican rule across the board, all principles and precepts that the Democratic Party holds dear (e.g. HealthCare, Social Security, Union Bargaining, Middle-Class Fairness & Justice, etc.) are now overturned by the Republicans.

    December 16, 2012 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  22. Another Real American

    Just put the controls in place, might be a little bit of initial backlash, but people will get used to them.

    December 16, 2012 04:49 am at 4:49 am |
  23. Alex Malpass

    Agenda 21 you might affect the world we live in... my brothers and sisters, but you do not own me. I may not be the Christian my grandmother raised me, but I will be damn if I'm taken off my feet, thrown away to the darkness until you feel I should be seen or heard. I have a voice and with that being said you will not be the end of me. The blood on your hands will forever remain fresh throughout your sinister days. EVIL speaking venom tainting the innocent.

    December 16, 2012 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  24. john wiggins jr

    Gun control obama wants to disarm. U s people that want to do these will finds a way to get guns

    December 16, 2012 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  25. onlyfacts

    What is needed is a mandatory standardized 10 minute psychological exam by a psychologist (payed for by the gun purchaser) and a 1 month waiting period to purchase a gun of any kind. If a gun you own is used in a crime YOU are 100%liable, so you better lock them up good. All automatic and semi-automatics should be banned and if caught with one (0 tolerance), you go to jail for 10 years. Enough is enough!

    December 16, 2012 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
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