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. Chace

    You people should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves to judge this mother who lost a loved one in such a tragic manner. And to post Obama doesn't care about our soldiers is just ludicrous.

    My prayers and support continue to go to the family and friends affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy.

    April 13, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  2. Wonton

    Background checks are just a tool to keep track of who own guns. The time will come when the govt will use that info to come and take way guns. So you were depressed and the doc issued you meds, OMG, take his gun away!!! The police here in CA already know who got guns; before they came and arrested a guy at work for a domestic violence issue the night before, they checked him and knew he had a gun. Background checks aren't used to to see if someone can legally own a gun.

    April 13, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  3. proskater

    how convenient to always shift the debate to the mentally ill. sounds right out of the NRA handbook. its part of the problem, yes, but there are many other aspects as well. so quit using mental illness as a means to ignore everything else, like easily buying through gun shows and the internet, or beefing up the enforcement of background checks, at least. we need multiple solutions from both sides.

    April 13, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. Kimo

    When you can't lead, you have others do your talking. A blatant display of a failed Presdient.

    April 13, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Brandon

    Propaganda spews from these mainstream media sites, everyday I move from "Guns are evil" articles to the next. Sorry but I read the facts and most of theirs dont add up. You wont play with my emotions. P.S. I realize Sandy Hook was a horrible tradegy and my condolences go to the families. But you people need to stop using it to push your agenda. Your going at this in the wrong way.

    April 13, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. Polopoint

    More 'governance' from this administration by "public relations"

    April 13, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  7. chet

    It was sad when Obama paraded stricken parents here in Connecticut, now it has turned into a disgusting display of politics! Everyone should be ashamed of themselves who have anything to do with this! This parent is now obsessed by the death of her son and will never rid herself of the nightmare and only because Obama keeps ripping open her wound instead of letting her heal. It is a tragic loss by a madmen that did it but it is politics Obama style that is prolonging her anguish! Shame on him!

    April 13, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  8. Jenelle

    So sorry about your child, but you child was not killed by a gun but a mentally ill person with a gun. HUGE DIFFERENCE.
    Anyone trying to take my guns away will have some problems.

    April 13, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. Louis

    there has never been a LAW that stopped crazy people or criminals from getting a gun

    April 13, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  10. mysimru

    Please my heart goes out to the one who lost children but come on. Obama is milking this for all it is worth and flying these people to the capital so that they can push his agenda. I thought money was being cut but Obama still has money to fly people around on Airforce one.
    People need to wake up to his lies. Not one of the laws that have been proposed would have stopped Sandy Hook but it would be a start to taking away our 2nd amendent rights.

    April 13, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. rs

    To you cowards who would bash these parents as "tools of Obama" does it occur in your wee brains that maybe these folks are motivated by the tragedy to tell their story and explain to the utterly dense WHY background check laws are needed?
    Further for you NRA 'bots who claim such checks 'infringe" on YOUR rights? Never mind her child died because of them.

    April 13, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  12. Sally Bergmoser

    Sad! But why not use the Mom's ,wives,and children of the Bengahzi murders too?

    April 13, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. Robert

    No, Obama is too busy exploiting these parents and dancing in the blood of innocent children to press a decades old Democrat agenda. This agenda depends on tragedy for its advancement. It is reprehensible to see the leader of the free world stoop to this level.

    April 13, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Sally Bergmoser

    Keeping gun away from law abiding citizens is WRONG! Anyone who wants to commit a crime will find a way to do it! Ask any Police officer anywhere to verify

    April 13, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. Scott Starr

    Keep the guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Please provide the classification for dangerous people... So if we can somehow manage to keep the guns out of the hands of these people, are we now safe, or will the dangerous people just change tactics?

    And will we be discriminating against a group of people because we label them dangerous? This just gets ugly.

    April 13, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. U S Citizen

    What a low blow from the the POTUS useing parents or kids in his weekly. address. We need a mental health registry, Plane and simple.all the shootings have been from someone with a mental problem. Now what does that tell you? The gun is not the problem, the mentally ill is the problem. .

    April 13, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  17. PD Gupta

    President Obama and all his supporters of new Federal gun law(s) must stop politics that divert real attention away from the root cause of gun violence and or gun terrorism by a few individuals in certain places at certain times. Let all gun laws be local and let the local authority handle the situation case by case basis. Any blanket gun law would be infringement of 2nd amendment in one way or other for 99.9 percent or more who are citizens of this country. If anybody feels insecure because another person has a gun, let that insecure person find his or her own security by making right decisions that fits to his or her life style. Background check at Federal level is very dangerous precedence and eventually it will take away many other freedom of being a US citizen in years to come. All future death of school children or movie goers would be preventable by other measures like what they have in airports and elsewhere. Changing laws to prevent gun violence is a real short cut method and it will never going to be enough to prevent any gun violence in the future. In other words, unfortunate gun violence is the price people have to pay to live freely in this country. What next? Background check for buying a knife or a gasoline can or what?

    April 13, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Reading the comments of deranged gun owners has changed my position on this. I have two shotguns and was against license and registration but you guys are crazy. Guns need to be registered and a photo license should be necessary to use them

    April 13, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. theINDEPENDENTone

    One could say in the Famous words of Hillary Clinton.. "WHO CARES !"

    Bottom line Mom... the moment your child stepped onto school property you gave up all rights to the safety and protection of your child to the State. Now you tell me how good a job did OBAMA and the State do in protecting your child???

    One Janitor with a gun would of saved your child. Just one janitor, teacher, coach with a gun might of helped. But all the controls, rules, fines and taking away even each and every gun in the state (and Connecticut has one of the strictest gun laws in the USA) would not protect your child from the Nut intent to cause harm. Whether its a gun, a gallon of gasoline thrown into a class room or his car ramming through the lunchroom or playground.

    In the end, you trusted the State with the life of your child. The State and Obama failed.

    April 13, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. Terry

    The 2nd Amendment is just that...an amendment...its not in the Bill of rights...it has been leg before the USSC several times...and it was not until 2008 with the Heller Disc did they ever say a person had indiv rights to bear arms....and even in that 5-4 disc the most strict Conservative judge Scalia said they can be Regulated....every disc prior said the 2nd Amend dealt with the arming of the militia and its readiness...it is very conv how everyone just leaves com the whole other part off in every discussion ....as far as these families speaking out...GOVERNMENT FOR THE PPL BY THE PPL...LET THEM SPEAK...FIRST Amendment...or doesnt that count unless you have millions...its sit down and shut up....NO THANKS...NOT IN MY AMERICA!!!...SHAME ON YOU PPL

    April 13, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  21. jodyhall77

    Name Sylvia....as with the others I'm sorry for your loss but the Bill of Rights is there to protect all of us from corrupt politicians; not for the parents of deceased children to "feel like they're making a difference" by changing it and infringing on the rights and liberties of others. Your lost loved one is not the fault of my right to keep and bear arms and is not the fault of my decision to familiarize myself with firearms in order to defend myself, my home and my family.

    April 13, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  22. Mark Yelka

    So, nobody complains that they have to register their cars, but they complain about registering guns?

    April 13, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. Noah

    Obama pays 18.4% in taxes and he's spent all of the last 4 yrs, and his campaign, arguing about others not paying their fair share, and then he goes and abuses the system to not pay his fair share???? and CNN think this isn't worthy of reporting on???? no, cnn just puts out a VIDEO, where you cant comment, and its about how his taxes "add up" but yet, when you watch the video, all it talks about are his charitable contributions....which are a totally separate issue...cnn just wants to bait and switch the issue to make you think he's such a charitable guy and make you forget that he's sliming out on his fair share of taxes....something STINKS in Denmark...and its cnn and the rest of the left wing media that wont hold this presidents feet to the fire....cnn ought to be pissed off at Obama after cnn played along on this fair share BS for over 4 yrs and then Obama goes and does this? and cnn isn't pissed? go figure...teetotalers.

    April 13, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. ginabeab

    Everyone: go to school, learn to write, learn to spell. Learn something.

    People use guns to kill. People buy guns. When you purchase a gun, a background check (here's the next industry: synchronous groupware) should be required. Background checks are only a slice of preventing a jerk from killing multiple strangers. Mass killings, mass murder has a whole new meaning now. Why not do something to prevent this? Of course, preventing these are kind of unknown. What data background checks provide will take a good ten years. Data has to multiply to be significant. You need a lot data to arrive at a finding.

    Patience and not presumption would suit everyone. Research I wouldn't mind looking into is what the internet has done to handicap facts in communication. Meaning, how much has responding off the cuff (instantly responding to something which the internet enables us to do) ruined our ability to speak factually?

    April 13, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  25. Get it

    What a statement about the devolution of our society that so many still don't get it about guns, even after the Newtown tragedy. The gunnies and their evil minions from the NRA will stop at nothing, stepping over (and on) the bodies of 20 dead first graders to advance their agenda. Can't the members of Congress see how sick these people are? Who cares about their votes? Our country is sadly filled with maniacs and lunatics who would rather keep an arsenal of guns than advance our collective society through commonsense reforms. From your cold dead hands indeed....

    April 13, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
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