April 13th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 years ago

Sandy Hook mom delivers presidential radio address

(CNN) - For the first time in his White House tenure, President Barack Obama handed the weekly address to someone outside his administration.

He stepped aside so a mother who lost her son in the Newtown school massacre could press Congress to act on new measure tightening access to guns.

“As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the president. I’m just a citizen. And as a citizen, I’m here at the White House today because I want to make a difference and I hope you will join me,” said Francine Wheeler, whose son Ben, 6, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

“I’ve heard people say that the tidal wave of anguish our country felt on 12/14 has receded,” Wheeler continued, referring to the day of the Newtown shooting. “But not for us. To us, it feels as if it happened just yesterday. And in the four months since we lost our loved ones, thousands of other Americans have died at the end of a gun. Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief. Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Friday that Obama asked Wheeler to tape the address, which is heard on radio and seen on the Internet.

In an email from the White House on Saturday, Obama wrote he takes the address "very seriously because it offers a chance to bring focus to an issue that needs to be part of the national dialogue."

Wheeler and other families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook have been in Washington this week to lobby Congress for passage of gun legislation that would expand background checks and take other steps designed to curb gun violence.

“We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass commonsense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us,” Wheeler said, noting that earlier this week it appeared gun control measures would stall in the Senate.

“Then, after the president spoke in Hartford, and a dozen of us met with senators to share our stories, more than two-thirds of the Senate voted to move forward,” she said, referring to Thursday’s Senate action that paved the way for debate on new gun laws.

“But that’s only the start,” she cautioned. “They haven’t yet passed any bills that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do.”

Carney told reporters the president believed the Newtown families in Washington have been “critical to the continued progress we've seen in the Senate."

A senior Obama administration official told CNN Wheeler wrote the remarks with her husband, and taped the address in the library at the White House on Friday morning. The address features only Wheeler and her husband David on camera.

This is the first time someone other than the president or vice president in this administration has delivered the weekly presidential address, Carney said Friday.

CNN found one instance in the George W. Bush administration when first lady Laura Bush delivered the address on the Taliban oppression of women and children in Afghanistan.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt originated the practice of delivering radio addresses on current issues, which was renewed by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. All succeeding presidents have followed the tradition.

Filed under: Gun control • President Obama
soundoff (182 Responses)
  1. Clayton Ferguson

    It is ashame when a child dies. It is a national tragedy when a lot die violently at the hands of someone who is off their rocker.
    But there seems to be tragedies that happen every day the world over.
    I can think of 6622 as a matter of fact who died that this president seems happy to have forgotten. Son's daughter brothers sister mother and fathers. Soldiers Sailors Airmen and Marines. True children of this republic who easily have been forgotten due there unpopular nature in politics. While men and women ave been at war America has been oblivious and at the mall. So i ask you. Get off the grave of children. Let the families morn with some honor. Stop dragging them out in public to cry to support your politics. Because clearly in your eyes you do not love all your children equally.

    April 13, 2013 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  2. JOHN

    Very sad for her loss......however, it is disgusting that obama and his lefty loons are using her for their own agenda. The proposed laws would not of made any difference in the out come....now the NRA suggestion of having an arm guard at schools may of helped.

    April 13, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  3. Kyle

    Wow doesnt she have a JOB to do? Oh yeah, her 'job' is being a crisis actor for the Obama regime to eliminate our second amendment rights!

    April 13, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    What nonsense you are talking–pass Gun-Ban Laws–show your muscle. Wicked NRA thugs bribed for bill of rights which is BS.

    April 13, 2013 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  5. robert kiehm

    How about they give equal air time to people whos' lives where saved with guns. Not one law will stop crime. We have laws to stop gun crime but judges don't in force them.

    April 13, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    One citizen should NOT be asking another citizen to give up their constitutional rights, because our government does NOTHING about the mentally ill, running around on our streets, committing atrocities.

    April 13, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  7. MaryM

    Thank you Mrs Wheeler for your courage and strength. I can not even imagine the grief and heart ache you and the families of gun violence experience. May you and those families find some peace and comfort.

    And to those who are saying the President is using these families, think before you respond to the article. These families want to do this. So don't degrade the families by saying they are being used.

    April 13, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  8. Evergreen

    Six year olds being gunned down in their classroom. Doing nothing about gun violence is no longer an option.

    April 13, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  9. truth hurts but reality truly bites

    The women lies, just like Obama. NONE of these laws address the real problem, the lack of a Lunatic Registry. If we do not identify crazy people, how can we keep them from buying guns? What good are background checks if the checks do not contain information about the mental stability of the person.

    April 13, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  10. Larry L

    @Clayton Ferguson

    I can think of 6622 as a matter of fact who died that this president seems happy to have forgotten.
    You do know the two wars you're referring to were started by Bush & Cheney? The President voted against the Iraq War then ended it as soon as possible. To blame President Obama for those deaths is delusional. Bush & Cheney should be in prison for starting the wars with fradulent intelligence data.

    April 13, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. lottie

    so many awful posts. Last time I looked it was a free country and we have free speech. The NRA with all its money has spread its ideas so the family's should have the same rights without being called names . The president is doing his job .Should he ignore the majority of people that want tighter gun laws?? Just like with the election people forget that the wishes of the majority of people should be paid attention to.

    April 13, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Pendy

    Our president calls it a stunt when Congress filibusters his agenda. What, exactly, is this, as well as busing in the families to lobby for his proposals. What a hypocrite.

    April 13, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. Harangue

    Again, psychological evaluation included in background checks. I don't care if you keep a gun. When I'm living on my own I'll probably own a side arm for personal protection in my home. I just want to be sure that a person who owns one was at least cleared through some sort of psychoanalytical test to not be a latent serial killer.

    April 13, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. BJ

    Obama's behavior is unconscionable. This was a tragic rare event. You do not run a country by playing on emotions. Enforce current laws!

    April 13, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. bj

    thousands have died in car rwecks. 4 people died in a chopper crash because the pilot was texting and forgot to fuel it up. thousands have died due to obama care.thousands have died from drugs smuggled across the border. thousands have died from smoking. they need to stop shoving it in our faces and face facts. we face becoming a communist country.

    April 13, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  16. Will Beararms

    CT has passed tough gun laws. So be it. If the citizens of CT want to put their safety and the safety of their families into the hands of politicians and an overwhelmed court system, it's their prerogative.

    Neither Joe Manchin nor Barak Obama nor Eric Holder or any other public official can prevent gun violence. The only thing that will prevent an evil person with a firearm, short of Divine intervention, is a good person with a firearm.

    Those who are willing to give up a little liberty for perceived security deserve neither liberty or security. Other states in our Union like mine choose not to turn their citizens into servile subjects and victims. I choose not be a servile subject or victim. I choose liberty over perceived safety. I choose not to be manipulated by power-hungry politicians.

    Those of you who choose to allow your state to disarm you do not speak for the rest of us. We understand their is a such thing as evil. We will not rely on others to do what we should should be doing for ourselves.

    April 13, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. Pogojo

    I thought you had to be a licensed lobbyist to lobby the senate?

    April 13, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. GaryOwen27

    The woman is right. If the NRA and the Red Neck Right have their way, our cities will start looking like Mogadishu Somalia. With armed gangs/warlords running different sections of the city or countryside......the apocalypse commith.

    April 13, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |

    Enough is enough already. Rides on Air Force 1, citizens from Sandy Hook delivering a Presidential radio address, celebrity status on the list goes on and on. Something's not right here. If Air Force 1 is going to be used as a tour bus here, they should start selling seats for the general public as well. I am not wasting my tax dollars on this attack on the 2nd amendment by free rides for these people, and we should all be getting very concerned here.

    April 13, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. GI Joe

    ONE child should not give up their right to live because of ONE person's right to own a gun.

    April 13, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. NorCalMojo


    New low for DC. I'm sorry for her loss, but dead children are not soap boxes. She needs to step down and shut up.

    April 13, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. Frank D

    I do not see why these Sandy Hook parents are in DC (other than being pawns for Obama).
    Connecticut got their gun law changes. Let each other individual state decide if that's what they need or want.

    This shouldn't and does NOT have to be a Federal Law that the voters and taxpayers have no say in!!!

    April 13, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. Edwin

    'truth hurts' is a sick excuse for a human being – this woman lost her young child. Unless you have lost a child to a school or play area shooting you should not speak ill of her sincerity.

    April 13, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  24. Mike from KC

    To the people who think this couple is being used to promote the 'leftist' agenda of taking your guns away, you should be ashamed of yourselves! These people lost their son at the hands of a person with a gun! Where is your sympathy or compassion? Where is your humanity?

    How many more people have to die before we do something? Do your kids or other loved ones have to be shot and killed before you will feel the gut wrenching grief, loss, anguish, that these people are feeling AND will have to deal with for the rest of their lives?

    I hope you NEVER have to experience that, but maybe if you did you would think before you respond like you did.

    I applaud these parents for doing what they are doing so that their kids death was for nothing, and so that no other parent has to go through what they are going through.

    April 13, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. BobInIrvine

    Wow, the insensitive conserva-tards prove once more that there never was such a thing as a "compassionate conservative."

    April 13, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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