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. Critial Thinker

    I feel for these parents who lost their loved ones in this tragedy. But, the core issue is that a mentally disturbed individual brought the guns to the school and committed this crime. The guns used to commit the crimes were legally purchased by a process of checks, to which we already have. Time to face up to the reality that guns do not kill people until the one holding that gun or rifle pull the trigger, and that is, not a guns decision. Why doesn't the media and America get some time with the Parents of Sandy Hook that are against this?

    April 13, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  2. mark

    Thousands have been killed with guns since sunday hook . I don't think so . No facts here just bs

    April 13, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  3. jeff j

    Death at Sandy Hook? 22-23? Compare to national annual death by guns? > 0.1%

    So... assault weapons ban... will prevent 0.1% death next year? While 99.9% of hudlums with unregistered guns ravage the underbelly of our society.

    April 13, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  4. Mac

    "Further for you NRA 'bots who claim such checks 'infringe" on YOUR rights? Never mind her child died because of them."

    I'm sorry but name me which of these parents children would have been saved by a background check? The weapons were stolen. Lets not "do something" simply for the face of doing something. I'm a gun owner and I'm not against background checks as long as they are done properly. Make the states provide all revelant mental information to NICS, make sure none of the weapon information is recorded at the Federal level (no start of a gun registry), leave ar-15s alone (they are just a semi-auto rifle, nothing more), and quit demonizing gun owners.

    This is not a conservative vs liberal issue. I have many friends on both sides that exercise their right to own guns. Lets get it right instead of rolling with the emotional wave to decide what constitutional rights we are going to limit.

    April 13, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. jeff j

    @ US Citizen

    Hmm people killed by mentally ill last year in comparison to people killed by uneducated gangstas ? > 1 %

    April 13, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  6. jeff j

    Hmm Sandy Hook victims 22-23? Compare to national annual average of murders by guns – > 1%
    Most gun murders? 99% handguns. That's 99% unregistered handguns in the hands of gangsters.

    April 13, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. sqeptiq

    The NRA is just one more reason why the teapublican party is headed to the trash heap of history. Good riddance.

    April 13, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. DuluthMN

    Yes, let's do something about gun violence. Let's recognize where it's at. Few middle class white kids are murdered by guns, but it gets attention. What weird sort of racism makes gun deaths among gang bangers and drug lords, mostly black and hispanic, who kill each other by the dump truck load, an invisible sort of activity. Let's talk about taking the guns away from those bad guys who have guns illegally.

    April 13, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  9. John Maroney

    When legislation that would actually stop a Sandy Hook from happening is proposed, I'll support it. But right now you Liberals have no idea what it is that you're currently pushing forward.

    April 13, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. Gun man

    Just 15 years ago the NRA actually supported some of the issues they are protesting today. I think everyone should have a gun in this country, after all the only way we can protect our children is by arming them. If i believe the fear mongers here the government is going to go door to door and take each person gun away. When they come to my door my five year old is going to shoot them, sorry mail man and children playing outside, if you get in the way so be it. Also for all you people saying the mentally ill needs to be watched. 11,00 people die from guns in this country, the mentally ill is responsible for only about maybe 500 of those deaths. They are not the problem regular people are they kill more than mentally challenged people. Who cares about the crazies its the sane you got to worry about like me!

    April 13, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  11. Code Pinkie

    Larry L
    Bush & Cheney should be in prison for starting the wars with fradulent intelligence data.
    "the wars"??? Obama said the war in Afghanistan was "the good war". He escalated it and sent 30,000 more troops there while declaring a surrender date, or was it a withdrawal date. All of the deaths in Afghanistan are on Obama's hands. As Commander in Chief, he could have withdrawn them, but he didn't. Your statement is just more of the bogus blame Bush tactics of he left. If Obama didn't want to lead and accept responsibility, why has he run for office twice? The celebrity parties?

    April 13, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  12. joe

    Who is going to pay for all these mental health checks and programs now.
    Let's ask the politicians that are supporting the NRA and their gun manufacturers to pay for all these mental health support and checks. It's easy to talk big when you aren't paying for it and then bitch when asked to pay for it. It's like the pro-lifers that want all these children to be born because they are human and then when teen mothers can support them they want to cut programs and services for them but oh yes we need more guns to protect them...
    What is so sad is how many US citizens do not look at who is behind putting out and paying for all of this propaganda...
    No wonder that this country is in the mess that it is in as people also believed Bush propaganda about Saddam and WMD...
    People that forget history are doomed to repeat it...
    There is inadequate funding for mental health services. Maybe the NRA could also provide those services in addition to armed guards? You think that would be a possibility-Not!!
    There are so many guns out there we could never find them all to confiscate them all...
    When are people going to get a reality check here?????????
    Just keep in mind that in 1776 it took 45 seconds to load and shoot a gun if you were good. It took a militia to provide the firepower protection that one 30 round AR 15 puts out. Just think about what one of these guns might do to wildlife in one of these wannabe Rambo's hands....

    April 13, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  13. Enough Already

    Trampling he Constitutional rights of every American will not bring back her child or prevent future events like Sandy Hook. The endless quest of the left and Democrats to destroy our 2nd Amendment rights should be very obvious at this point. Any gun owner that values their 2nd Amendment rights would be insane to vote for any Democrat, at any level, for any office. The Democrat Party must pay a price for this ridiculous attack on our rights, just because of a few crazy people, which they refuse to address.

    April 13, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  14. gajb

    The interview should have been taped in Connecticut rather wasting money flying her to and from DC.

    April 13, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  15. Mexico Waiting for Apology

    How many Mexican children died as a result of the Obama administrations illegal international Fast & Furious gun running fiasco??? Are their lives worth nothing??? Where is the outrage??? I guess it doesn't matter because they were Mexicans right?

    April 13, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  16. Cogito

    I feel deeply for the parents in Newtown...I can't imagine what they are going through.
    However, everything that has happened since "must" be viewed through the lens of Newtown, and pre-approved by the parents of the slain children. (i.e. the whole GLEE "controversy"...give me a break!)
    Frankly, It's getting a bit disgusting, and I know I am by no means alone amongst CT residents feeling this way.
    There are other citizens in this country (and state!) besides these parents, and their feelings/thoughts/sentiments are NO LESS VALID than those of the Newtown parents.

    April 13, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  17. fernace

    In the past few moths, a 4yr old shot/killed a woman, another 4yr old shot/killed his 6yr old friend, a 15yr old committed suicide w/an unsecured gun, schools have had shootings/suicides, there has been numerous killing's of lawofficials! When 2nd amendment proponents have no mercy for families who have lost loved 1's to pointless gunviolence, that doesn't bode well for the nation! Can we not see that we are living in a gun society!? We're so blaze' about gun deaths, that it takes a massacre or 2 to get us to even start a discussion about the elephant in the room! We call the 4yr olds stories accidents! Guns are just another "thing" like a TV or car! We don't respect it as a deadly weapon! We buy, sell, tade & don't think about consequences, it's our 2nd amendment right! Will we continue to sacrifice peopes lives for that right!? I'm glad alot of us are saying no to that question!!

    April 13, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  18. 10ring

    I have a great deal of sympathy for this mother and for all who suffered in the Newtown tragedy. However, I find it inappropriate that Obama sent this mother to the microphone for the weekly address. I also find it distasteful that Obama uses her to push his anti-gun agenda. He has dragged school kids up on stage, now he is bringing up grieving parents. I am not sure I want to know who or what he plans to use next. I expect more from the President and I expect better taste.

    April 13, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  19. Step out of the Bubble



    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 |

    Yeah,I am sure that is what you would do if it was your son or daughter. Hopefully you have done all of us a favor and not reproduced.

    April 13, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  20. Geoffrey

    I'm amazed by all the folks saying the government should have a list of every mentally ill person, but not a list of everyone who owns guns. Sounds like you don't mind the government making lists, just as long as you're not on them. I could use the same logic the "they're gonna take my guns" people use. Example: what if an evil regime uses that mentally ill list to round up every unbalanced person and engage in mass executions? It already happened in Nazi Germany!... Oh, wait a minute... that is ludicrous and just about as unlikely as the government rounding up everyone's guns. It's simply not going to happen people. Get over your delusions.

    April 13, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  21. Heff

    For those that think background checks will keep guns from the hands of criminals; you are in fantasy land. A gun is a tool. If this scumbag had run over children at a school bus stop we wouldn't be talking about banning cars. There are no statistics to support background checks reducing crime. None. This is emotional reaction from people that want "something" done. Problem is there are no facts to support it working, Fact is, the guns in the Sandy Hook incident were purchased legally and a background check wouldn't have stopped it. The problem is our countries disrespect for life. We cant blame the an inanimate object. Its a mental problem that anyone thinks that shooting children is even remotely something to think about. I would sooner have stricter mental health laws that affect the real problem, and would be more effective, than infringing on the rights of the 99.9% of people that own guns and use them legally that have the right (its not a bill of needs) according to our constitution.

    April 13, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  22. Geoffrey

    To all you pro gun people: when is it enough? You say guns are inanimate object, just tools. Well, what about RPGs, chemical weapons, nukes? They're just 'tools.' They can't inherently harm people... but would you want your neighbor stockpiling them? Why can't I drive a tank to work... why are you trying to restrict my freedoms?

    April 13, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  23. maddy lint

    our thoughts and prayers go out to all the parents, grandparents siblings and any others who were deeply impacted by the tragedy in Newtown however criminals always seem to get their hands on guns whether more laws are passed or not I think they need to secure our schools better that iwould be the best action to take today we trust these institutions with the most precious things we have our children May God be wih you all

    April 13, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  24. Geoffrey

    And btw, if the real reason we stockpile assault weapon is a safeguard against tyranny.... then we need some bigger weapons. Because last time I checked, a tyrannical government would be coming at us with tanks, choppers, and UAVs. So be sure to stock up on C4 and surface to air missiles when you'r buying you redneck camo at walmart.

    April 13, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  25. gordon24

    This is not Ok, he is grandstanding, just like when he had children stand around him while signing executives orders for gun control. But it is not OK for he NRA to sponsor a NASCAR race, because it is insensitive... give me a break! This country needs to stop worrying about guns and politically correct crap and fix the freakin' debt and economy issues!

    April 13, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
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