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. Mike Buck

    Clayton, What makes you think he has forgotten our troops that have died in combat? The president is not omnipotent to wave a wand and have everything fixed. Especially after the economic and international disasters our former president led us into.

    April 13, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  2. rick freeman

    What a bunch of crap, I'm sick of Obama's BS about guns when his administration suppllied them to cartels which killed Americans yet he won't answer questions about that in interest of national security, that is what he used EP for

    April 13, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. Steve Fielder

    Newtown shooter Adam Lanza's mother wouldn't trust her 20 year old kid to go get a haircut by himself, but she not only gave him access to her firearms collection, she gave him money to buy his own guns, as well.

    Question is: How many other gun-owning parents are so willfully blind as to allow their own mentally-unstable kids access to guns? Too many is my bet....

    April 13, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  4. rick freeman

    So Obama can supply the drug cartels with assault weapons but he wants Americans not to have them. Remember he used EP in the interest of national security to squash the investigation of Holder

    April 13, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  5. Joel

    What the heck are you talking about, Clayton? How has Obama forgotten about the troops when he has been working around the clock to get them withdrawn quickly?

    April 13, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  6. Name

    People need to think before they get on the internet. It's not about the president it is about the innocent people that are killed. I love guns myself and nobody is talking about taking your guns so stop with the lies and the hate of this president and if was anybody else talking about gun control you wouldn't have problem your hate of this man blinds your common sense

    April 13, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  7. SAD

    I feel badly for the Newtown parents who lost a child. I feel badly for the parents who lost a child because someone was: driving drunk, too fast, ran a stop sign while texting or a whole host of other wrongs. I feel badly for the child who was aborted, and, the parents who decided to abort their child. I feel badly for the parents who have lost a child to a drug overdose. I feel badly for ANY parent who has lost a child for ANY reason. Our problem as a society is much bigger than the present debate over gun legislation. Our problem is one of morality and unfortunately that can't be legislated.

    April 13, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  8. kevin

    I believe all Americans and most of the worlds hearts literally hurt when the Lunatic killed those children and their teachers at Sandy Hook, I know Mine did. However, the acts of any lunatic or evil doer are not the responsibility of anyone else or any inanimate object. those who attempt to divert blame onto anyone or anything else are frankly "stupid" or worse on the side of the lunatic, they attempt to lessen his bad act upon the children after the fact by placing blame on something else. A gun is simply a tool an object, it has to be loaded, aimed and trigger pulled by someone a person. That person chose to place themselves in a school with little ones he knew were easy targets and could not defend themselves. Do background checks even seem as a defense to anyone? The left wants to restrict the 2nd Amendment rights of all Americans and change our country not protect children, heck they are ignoring the Dr. Gosnell story of literally killing babies with a knife because its called Abortion which they are for. Does a baby born in under a minute or two deserve less protection than 6 year olds? The answer for all Americans should be NO! Defend our children don't rob them of their life or their rights!

    April 13, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. Wes

    I think the parents of those killed in the Benghazi cover-up should be allowed to give the presidential radio address next week.

    April 13, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. Name/ggggg

    It is not fair when a handfull of people get to call for the government to take away my rights. How many of them would be asking this of us if even one of us had defied the current laws and been in that school with a gunand opened fire on the gun and only 1 child or even 2 children had died that day. I bet then they would be calling for more guns and less control

    April 13, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. jodyhall77

    This is so shamelessly dripping with politics it is sickening. I feel terrible for the families of those kids but emotions are not a mandate for revoking the rights of law abiding citizens. These parents are being exploited in the worst way by a classless politician/ party and apparently this lady is happy to be getting attention, sympathy and a sense of empowerment by being used as a pawn by the left to take away peoples 2nd amendment rights. Just one armed staff or faculty member of that school could have saved a dozen lives and that's a fact. But no...the nanny libs had to make it a "gun free zone". They want to ram this through knowing it will not stop the next mass murder. When the next one happens we will be dragged through all of this again with the left claiming our "gun control" measures didn't go far enough. Those who are willing to give up their liberty for a little temporary security deserve neither liberty or security. I think some of these parents need to do a lot of soul searching before they keep demanding congress make America less free.

    April 13, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    To everyone posting here who was picked up the Republican and NRA meme that the problem is that we have mentally ill people running around. You do realize that even under your St. Ronald Ragan money to the states for mental health was drastically cut by over 25%. I know in our state they closed the state mental hospital because of this.

    April 13, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  13. jodyhall77

    The more gun control we have...the less safe America will be.

    April 13, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    Truth hurts and yada yada: Background checks DO contain information regarding whether someone has been treated or arrested for mental issues.

    Shame on you for accusing this woman of line when she is not. Pull your head out of Fox and start using your brain for once.

    April 13, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    Clayton Ferguson: What the heck are you talking about? Pres. Obama has done more for active military and vets that a lot of previous presidents have combined. He ended the war in Iraq and he's getting us out of Afghanistan. He has pushed for better funding for vets and given companies tax breaks to employ veterans.

    Also this woman and her husband wrote these remarks themselves and volunteered to make this address. They are doing this of their own volition. If they want to let the country know about their grief having lost their child then they have a right to do that.

    April 13, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. ldjackson

    For those asking for a crazy registry , could be thinking words on a piece of paper and a dangerous piece of metal is more important than a human life , may just get you on that registry.....

    April 13, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain

    Loopholes in the law allow people to buy weapons online and at gun shows without a background check, so guess where the crazies and criminals do their shopping?

    Requiring background checks on EVERY sale WILL reduce the number of weapons in the hands of crazies and criminals.

    If you're not crazy or a criminal – you have nothing to worry about.

    The NRA and anyone opposing background checks are protecting crazies and criminals.

    April 13, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. The Secessionist

    As you have noticed, Im not the president either, im a citizen too. New gun laws are not the answer; common sense is. Ms Wheeler is an old badger that sees the world only through tunnel vision, The more push for gun control, the morelikely you are to see boththe states and counties looking to leave. Im tired of living in my own country becuase it is full of idiots and is run by them. We are becoming a nation of fear. 'what if, what if...' It is time to embrace your fears, and once you embrace it as a whole, you can control it.

    April 13, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  19. jodyhall77

    The "Bill of Rights" is not supposed to be up for election or "voted on" by congress. Amendments are supposed to be deliberated and then ratified by a two thirds majority of all 50 states. In other words everyone is supposed to be represented not just a handful of victims. I states like Connecticut want to forfeit their 2nd amendment rights the so be it but for them to demand that congress infringe on the rights of people in all 50 states who don't see it their way is wrong...wrong.....WRONG!!

    April 13, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  20. Selmers

    "Before our tragedy becomes your tragedy"? Um, That's a little presumptuous, isn't it?

    April 13, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. Name Sylvia

    My son was murdered. As a parent this makes a
    Person feels like they are making a difference. Thank you Mr. president Obama. I pray daily for the senseless killings to stop. We as a nation needs to come together I pray that the people who
    Fault the president for what he's trying to accomplish. Never walk in our shoes. Let's work together make a difference.

    April 13, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  22. pw

    The US government uses much bigger guns to slaughter children overseas. Will there be a vote anytime soon to ban those?

    April 13, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  23. darknesscrown

    "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." -- Yours is the exact kind of tone-deaf, insane, irrational viewpoint that has basically caused all the problems with guns. What's even more insane is your opinion that not letting more people GET guns will make things worse. Are you high??? Keep in mind that it's a LAW that permits you to have a weapon at all. Laws change with the times. Your type of Americanism is phony and hollow. If you're so worried about the government, why don't you go and start shooting up a government building then? They've ALREADY taken many of your rights away...by the NRA's own logic, this is grounds for rebellion.

    April 13, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  24. Juanita

    Garbage. Sorry your kid died, but go away. Don't take away my guns just cuz some white guy decided to go ape.

    April 13, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Sunny Arizona

    OK, so let me get this straight, the police cannot stop and question a man walking down the street carrying a semi automatic weapon, but he can stop me if I am walking my dog without a leash and demand to see the dog's registration. I guess this is under the theory that guns don't kill people, DOGS kill people.

    April 13, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
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