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. anonymous

    Look at reality newtown. sure your tragedy was horrific but don't go around moping all the time. the world does not revolve around you. life will go on and time will eventually make the memory of this massacre fade away like it did with columbine.

    April 9, 2013 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  2. Mark

    The way the universal background check part of the legislation was being written, a better description of it would be "universal registration."

    April 9, 2013 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  3. Patrick in Wisconsin

    Greg, both Canada and the U.K. though have exponentially (yes, actually exponentially) less gun violence than the U.S. In the case of Britain, there were fewer than a hundred gun murders in 2012. Here in the U.S. that many people died every two days. You say gun registration is the boogyman but It seems to have worked pretty well thus far in your country.

    April 9, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  4. Diane

    All the republican posts sound so pathetic. No one is banning all guns ......no one is losing their freedoms......the government already has any and all info on you, if you have a drivers license, if you have a bank account, if you go to a dr or hospital if you have a loan if you have a passport if you have flown on a plane if you have a job etc etc etc. has anyone come to get you paranoid people yet.......NO.
    If the gov wants to come get you they do not need a gun registry to find you, but if we want people like Adam Lanza to not have access to guns we need some gun control......not a gun ban......some gun control.

    April 9, 2013 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  5. Thomas

    Freedom has nothing to do with owning a firearm .

    Primitive minds , evolution

    April 9, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  6. Diane

    Guns over 6 years olds = cowards

    April 9, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  7. SCC

    I read some comments from another article and I cannot believe how insensitive Americans can be. There are
    those Americans that feel the 15 Senators are right to succeed in a filibuster.
    My question is what about the 20 little children

    April 9, 2013 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  8. Roger

    What does this moron not understand? Laws don't stop crime, and never have. All this nonsense serves to accomplish is to further reduce good citizens' abilities to protect themselves from bad guys who laugh at legislation! We have plenty of rules, but a poor record of enforcing them. Let's work on that, instead of squandering resources on new laws that only decent people will obey.

    I wish I could think of a better country in which to live, but I can't. This one is rapidly becoming a European-style Nanny State of managed slaves, and it's past time to leave. But where to go????? Sadly, this is the last bastion of human freedom, and the majority seem to be working hard to kill it. Such a waste...

    April 9, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  9. Just a thought

    It takes a complete baffoon to believe that we should do nothing about the sale of guns.

    April 9, 2013 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  10. norma jean

    Leave our freedoms alone...says one gun owner!!,,,,,,We would if we were still alive!!!!

    April 9, 2013 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  11. CurmudgeonTx

    It is all RUSH RUSH RUSH!!! Before people quit thinking purely emotionally and go back to thinking with their minds.

    April 9, 2013 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  12. Andrew

    What makes death by guns worse than any other means out there? Is it because a gun is designed to kill things? Knives are in that same category. They are designed to cut and slash things which makes them amazing close range killing devices.
    Is it that people believe that others are so incompetent, so irresponsible we cannot be trusted with such an efficient self defense tool that it becomes more of a liability against society? That for the greater good your average citizen should not be allowed to carry any sort of firearm? Has society come this far? Are we destined to a life of heavy control and regulation simply because an individual cannot be trusted enough to make sound decisions on their own.

    April 9, 2013 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  13. David

    This really stinks. With ninety one percent of Americans favoring background checks and at it goes down. It is definitely a point for revenge at the ballot box,

    April 9, 2013 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  14. PDXSerric

    "Yet recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans favor making a change to the background check system – a fact Obama raised Monday." THIS is all that should matter to Congress, even if the NRA fights it!

    April 9, 2013 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  15. Lynn

    He can scold all he wants and make claims to popular support which he doesn't have, and if lawmakers give in then maybe its time we get some new lawmakers that is looking out for the American people as whole and not just 26 people.

    April 9, 2013 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  16. Lynn

    I'm sorry for the 20 kids and 6 teachers. they did not deserve this, but to go on a witch hunt after the American people and their rights is just totally irresponsible.

    April 9, 2013 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  17. John Galt

    The 2nd amendment protects citizens from tyrants. This president has pushed my wife and I further to the right. Let the states decide if they want change. Let the liberals live under tyrants and criminals. My family and I will stay free and well armed in a freedom loving state.
    Signed, former Marine, Christian, Family Man, Small Business Owner, and a Patriot.

    April 9, 2013 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  18. jed

    Sandy Hook is not a valid reason for passing additional gun regulations. The sociopathic 20 year old would have used any means to achieve his objective.

    April 9, 2013 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  19. cincinnatidavid

    There was never any intent behind the 2nd Amendment that a well-armed self-interest lobby would define the meaning of "the security of a free state". The thought of Rand Paul voting with his gun with LaPierre at his side is truly frightening.

    April 9, 2013 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
  20. GI Joe

    Paranoia is a mental illness. Keep the guns from those nuts that are paranoid. They see someone devious around every corner, while they shake in their boots.

    April 9, 2013 05:16 am at 5:16 am |
  21. Cole

    If there has never been universal background checks in this country then any statement that says they won't work is a statement that has no factual evidence to back it up. The states that have background checks have prevented over 70,000 criminals from obtaining firearms. Background checks prevent criminals from getting guns. Universal background checks will make it even more difficult and harder for criminals to get firearms. Just the facts please not gun lobby rhetoric. A background check doesn't prevent law abiding citizens from purchasing a firearm. The people that don't want background checks are people that can't pass one. It's that simple.

    April 9, 2013 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  22. SpencerRifle

    It's an innocent sounding question by itself....do you favor background checks to keep guns from felons & the mentally ill? Yes, i do. But do I support the government maintaining a permanent record of transactions between private citizens? No, I do not. And there's the problem. Find a way to do it without the record-keeping aspect & I'll support it. Until then, kill it.

    April 9, 2013 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  23. Jerry

    What else can be expected from the Chosen One?! While the country is in dire need, HE's gallivanting across the country on his continuos political campaign; all on the taxpayer nickel.

    I thought HE was so concerned about his green imprint and all the unnecessary spending.

    Oops!!! Sorry!!! Mea culpa! I seem to have forgotten that those stringent rules only apply apply to HIS subjects.

    Oh well...

    April 9, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  24. Joel

    If the prez likes to use the theory of democracy, when he says the majority, 90%, are in favor of background checks, so therefore Congress should vote the people's opinion, is two faced. The majority of the people were against Obamacare but yet it was rammed down our throats. Can't have it both way Barak, you idiot.

    April 9, 2013 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  25. Uncle Sam

    No more gun laws. You government does not enforce the ones already on the books and any of additional proposed will not do a damn thing toward keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. Focus on the problem, criminals and moral decay, and leave law abiding citizen's guns alone.

    April 9, 2013 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
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