April 8th, 2013
06:40 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama scolds lawmakers for reticence in passing gun control

(CNN) - President Barack Obama angrily chided lawmakers reluctant to back gun control legislation on Monday, saying the overwhelming support for measures like universal background checks among the American people should force action in Congress.

The president was speaking in Hartford, not far from the site of the massacre in Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Obama's calls for tighter gun control laws began in the aftermath of that shooting, though measures he proposed appear to be stalled in Congress.

His message on Monday was crafted as much for lawmakers as it was for the Newtown victims' families, who sat behind him on stage and who traveled to Washington with him on Air Force One to further lobby members of Congress on passing new gun laws.

MORE: Sandy Hook families to ride Air Force One to D.C., lobby Senate

"Newtown, we want you to know that we're here with you," Obama said. "We will not walk away from the promises we've made. We are as determined as ever to do what must be done. "

The American public must hold elected leaders to a higher standard going forward, Obama asserted, saying the issue should span the political divide.

“We’ve got to expect more from ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to expect more from Congress. We’ve got to believe that every once and a while we set politics aside and we just do what’s right. We’ve got to believe that. And if you believe that we’ve got to stand up.”

The Senate is expected to begin debate as early as this week over proposed firearm legislation, but Democratic sources admit that the gun bill as currently written does not have the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

One proposal being considered would expand background checks to gun shows and Internet sales, but would not require checks for any other private transactions, according to multiple sources from both parties who are familiar with the talks. That falls short of the universal background checks favored by Obama.

MORE: Leading Senate talks falling short of universal background checks

The powerful National Rifle Association is staunchly opposed to the bill, and a group of Republican senators have already vowed to block the bill. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would also join the Republican filibuster.

Yet recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans favor making a change to the background check system – a fact Obama raised Monday.

"If our democracy's working the way it's supposed to, and 90% agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy, you would think this would not be a heavy lift," Obama said, saying the Republicans who were vowing the filibuster the bill were, in essence, telling Americans that their "opinion doesn't matter."

“Why wouldn’t you want to make it for law enforcement to do their job?” Obama asked. “Why wouldn’t you want to make it harder for a dangerous person to get his or her hands on a gun? What’s more important to you, our children or an A grade from the gun lobby?”

Some states have gone ahead and passed their own gun control measures, including Connecticut, which expanded its background check system on Thursday among other tough gun laws.

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre blasted the new firearms restrictions, saying the only people who will follow the new regulations are law-abiding gun owners, not criminals.

"I think the problem with what Connecticut did is the criminals, the drug dealers, the people that are going to do horror and terror, they aren't going to cooperate," LaPierre said Thursday on Fox News. "I mean, all you're doing is making the law books bigger for the law-abiding people."

MORE: Malloy says NRA’s LaPierre acts like a circus clown

On the federal level, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is concerned that the Senate bill could lead to record keeping of gun owners and gun sales. He has been in talks with Democrats about a compromise, but with nothing promising on the horizon, Democrats have turned to another Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Obama's speech Monday night was the latest in the White House's ongoing push for Congress to pass gun legislation in the wake of a spate of mass shootings last year, including the Newtown massacre and the shooting at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater.

Vice President Joe Biden, who spearheaded a task force on coming up with recommendations for Congress, will deliver remarks Tuesday, further putting pressure on Capitol Hill as lawmakers return from their two-week recess.

- CNN's Dana Bash, Ted Barrett, Brianna Keilar, Paul Steinhauser, and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.

This week, CNN TV and CNN.com will take an in-depth look at “Guns Under Fire: A CNN Special Report On Background Checks.” On Tuesday night at 8 p.m., AC360 will debut an exclusive interview with former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head two years ago in Arizona. On Wednesday, the network will look at gun control and background checks as Congress is expected to tackle the issue head-on in the coming days. Watch CNN TV and follow online at CNN.com or via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.

Filed under: Connecticut • Gun control • Gun rights • President Obama
soundoff (656 Responses)
  1. RINO Bill

    A real leader would have taken this dog and pony show to Texas, not to a "safe" state like Connecticut. This tells a lot about Obama.

    April 8, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  2. dscon

    Socialism works until you run out of other ppl money.
    Socialism works in Europe ONLY because they are DISARMED.
    Well Duh....

    April 8, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  3. TC

    I agree, we need to change the way we are now, the government should have the final word on this matter otherwise it will continue to grow more and more just like the cell phone. There is no way to stop the people from talking on their cell phones even if the tried. They continue to drive and talk at the same time and has caused accidents because of it. I owed a AR-15 and was a member of the NRA I am no longer after what happen up north east. It's all about money for the NRA.

    April 8, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  4. Tumbleweed

    Would gun registry have stopped Sandy Hook? No! Then why sacrifice a fundamental right? Less than 150 total murders with "assault" rifles in 2011. Less than hammers and fists. Obummer want us to outlaw them too? What a total waste of time. Don't you libs get it? Gun control DOES NOT WORK in the U.S.

    April 8, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  5. AL

    Mitch McConnell and his ilk have absolutely no shame.
    They use the filibuster to hide their true position on issues.
    at least vote on it! what are you afraid of Mitch?
    Meanwhile we're ALL still in danger of another Newtown / Aurora / Virginia Tech / Columbine / etc

    April 8, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  6. BO

    Obama fusses with gun control as his economy continues to crumble. What a perfect article for CNN to run.

    April 8, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  7. DPB

    "The American public must hold elected leaders to a higher standard"...vote them all out in 2014...then find a real leader in 2016...if there are any left

    April 8, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  8. MontanaSon

    Anyone who would use the death of children to advance a political agenda is sick in the head. Obama is a disgusting, cynical illustration of the very reason our founders created the second amendment.

    April 8, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  9. Mike

    I understand that the NRA believes we should not have laws against robbing a bank, because only law abiding citizens will adhere to it.
    I understand that the NRA believes we should not have laws against embezzlement, because only law abiding citizens will be honest with their money.
    I understand that the NRA believes we should not have laws against vandalism, because only law abiding citizens will respect others' property
    Get the logic? Let's put NRA (i.e. the baby-killers) in their place – by voting for universal background checks, because we law abiding citizens know it is the right thing to do.

    April 8, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  10. Steve

    I really try to step back and look at things objectively. While I agree that it would be ideal to find a way to stop people from doing bad things, I don't see any proof that the laws work. If laws banning guns are so effective, why then is the gun violence so high in the most restrictive places; Chicago, NY, LA, etc. And on a country level, Mexico, and others. These places ban guns yet have incredibly high gun violence rates when compared to less restrictive places like Texas, or even Switzerland. Then I look at countries that ban guns and do it to control their population with brutality.

    I just don't believe that preventing law abiding citizens from owning guns, magazines, and ammunition will solve the problem. It hasn't anywhere else.

    We need to look at ways to put outside pressure on criminals. Perhaps take away social services from family members of a criminal. Go to jail, and your dependents and family members lose all housing and food assistance. There must be something that will work with average criminals. I know that it won't work with those hell bent on killing. But it might just turn some things around. Paradigm shifts tend to work better than doing more of the same when the same isn't working.

    April 8, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  11. dh

    There is a proposal worthy of gun owners' support. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mark Begich (D-AK) have introduced S. 480, the "NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013", which will provide accurate definitions of persons who pose serious threats to themselves or others and therefore should be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, while protecting the rights of those who should not be included in NICS.

    April 8, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  12. Lizzy10

    Yes, we owe them.

    April 8, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  13. Evervigilant

    Our president owes us so much and we owe him NOTHING.

    April 8, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  14. Brendan

    We owe the US REAL solutions, not thoughless political grandstanding. REAL solutions start with identifying the problem and so far we've only identified what scares people easily and makes the uninformed feel good. WE owe America more than promises and a vote.

    April 8, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  15. s kel

    You ignorant fox news watching fools, your guns (of which I own three) is not going to be takin away by the govt. Only stronger background checks and no loopholes like exist now! You fools let that greed ridden orginization the nra lie and scare you consertive and foolish liberal weak minded people into beiving the filth they have been spewing. If twenty young five and six year old babies being dismembered dont strike your soul you have none.

    April 8, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  16. w

    HHHMMM a MAJORITY of Americans DID NOT want Obamacare and look what happened. And he has the nerve to talk about democracy. This administration has done alot without our approval. This bill is dead in the water.

    April 8, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  17. theseconddavid

    You will not take our freedom. Not by vote, and not by force.

    April 8, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  18. communist47

    Background check will lead to record keeping, which will lead to registration, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to genocide and live in fear.

    April 8, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  19. shaysite


    How many mass shootings have you had in Canada? I don't recall ever hearing about a single one. But as you know, it happens all the time in the US. If you're going to criticize your country's gun laws as ineffective, don't you think you're obliged to explain why, with much more lax laws than those of your country, we have much higher rates of gun deaths and many more mass shootings? Wouldn't that lead to the opposite conclusion that Canadian gun laws-though perhaps contrary to our Bill of Rights-actually do reduce gun violence?

    April 8, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  20. us_1776

    America supports letting the mentally ill buy assault weapons.


    April 8, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  21. Davidj

    Where are these polls I didn't get to vote. You try to take guns then they make a bomb you take bombs they will use cars and so on crazy folks will always be crazy and people will always kill. Quit punishing people with these stupid laws. We have lost enough of our freedoms. The next time a drunk driver kills a family with a truck lets make that against the law. Oh wait it already is. There nothin you can do to stop STUPID CRAZY people

    April 8, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  22. Pete

    @Greg,is that like Romney,Adelson and others filling republican reps pockets to keep the wealthy out of the way of tax reform,please tell ..And if you think gun legislation is phoney try telling the half dozen or so shot at gun shows just some time ago and they hadn't left the building yet...People should be psychologicly tested before getting anything that can hurt them..If you have a DUI don't you go to school and pay heavy fines with the guilty verdict or do you just go out and drive again not caring for the consequences if caught again..Legislation and its consequences should fit the crime being a drunk driver driving erratically or someone who discharges a gun in a community neighborhood.Both lead to harmful,painful consequences wether you like them or not..Both have their responsibilities that can't be ignored....Remember guns and driving are privileges that few other countries have so don't abuse them or you'll lose them as well!!

    April 8, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  23. communist47

    Remove these dummies from public office before they do any more damage to this country.

    The NRA represents freedom for America and the people.

    April 8, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  24. Salmonrme

    "NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre blasted the new firearms restrictions, saying the only people who will follow the new regulations are law-abiding gun owners, not criminals." So what law was ever passed to punish law-abiding gun owners, not criminals. What a weak statement. No we pass gun laws so when we catch the criminals we can lock them up longer so they don't kill !

    April 8, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    No need to ask George Soros or Bloomberg , lets just ask the American people what they want without all this nonsense and fear from the gun lobby on right wing talk radio

    April 8, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
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