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. gordon24

    US Citizen is 100% correct!!!!

    April 13, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  2. Flagrante Delicto

    A closer look at the suspects who have committed these horrendous crimes are either registered Demorats, or come from homes where their parents are Progressives. Republicans defend the Constitution – Liberals try to destroy it.

    April 13, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    @U S Citizen: These parents chose to make this address; no one forced them. They have a right to speak, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel.

    You are incredibly dim to not understand that background checks include information regarding the potential buyer's mental health history – which is why crazies (and criminals) flock to gun show and the Internet to make their weapons purchases.

    If you are opposed to universal background checks, then you are helping the crazies and the criminals. PERIOD.

    April 13, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  4. Pathetic

    Lame political gimmick. The president is desperate.

    April 13, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    @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"

    If you are afraid of universal background checks, it's because you are either crazy or a criminal.

    April 13, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  6. gblackfoot@yahoo.com

    obama really needs to stop using the families as pawns for his agenda, let them grief, it is sad the children past the way they did, its truly sad what our dictators try to do for the rest of the globalists

    April 13, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  7. cp

    The parents from Newtown are doing everything possible to get some gun bills to pass Congress. The President is not using these parents but they do get upset over the implication that anyone is forcing them do this. Those who do write or say this have not listened to anything that parents have said. It is unfortunate that people are trying to speak for these parents or giving statements about them which are false.

    Registering guns and doing a background check could be done very easily. We already are subject to laws about licenses and every person who works at a school or hospital – even volunteers must have a background check. . Beauticians, barbers, x-ray technicians, etc., are licensed.

    No one is taking anyone's gun away and to say so is misleading. No one is saying that people purchasing guns are dangerous. We would not know that unless there was a background check. Those of us who do not have a gun or guns need to feel safe as well. The guns are the weapons and to be sure, those who fired must be brought to justice. However, when a man or woman purchases a gun from a store, an owner, or gun show that person's background is unknown.

    April 13, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  8. McBob79

    It's shameful how low the White Hoise will go to politicize . Sad!

    April 13, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.[16]

    April 13, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  10. Gina

    Legislating from raw emotion is not the way to govern this country. It was this same sort of raw emotion that gave us the Patriot Act and the Iraq war after 9-11. Now emotion is being used to further strip us of our rights after Sandy Hook.

    April 13, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  11. Ancient Texan

    When the government refuses to enforce the hundreds of gun laws already on the books, why would passing more laws be treated any differently? The proposed new laws would not have stopped ONE of the tragedies that have occured recently. It's all about CONTROL and attempts to over ride the 2nd admendment.

    April 13, 2013 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  12. Namepaul

    It's a sad state of affairs when a president can't make his own request to the people who elected him for gun control. He also stated no money would be taken out of social security so instead he is trying to take it from theAmericans who rely on it to live by taking away a cost of living,which the raise doesn't keep up with it anyway. Shame on you President Obama and the people who helped him come up with that unfair and stupid idea. You will go out as the President who cripple the senior citiizens and the disabled!

    April 13, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  13. Lib

    GUNS WERE MADE TO KILL!!! Stop comparing guns to other things like cars etc. And to those who are accusing Obama for parading these parents in front of people for his own purpose, in a way you are correct since he is a parent with children. I feel he is going about this the right way. All of you who remain ignorant in thinking the bill is to keep you from owning a gun need to reeducate yourselves. The president is not trying to take anybody's gun away, he is just trying to make it harder to get assault guns which I don't know for the life of me why anyone would want one. If you are thinking of defending yourself from the government, you'd better get more than that. I am glad the POTUS is letting these folks speak. As a parent and grandparent, I feel their pain and know at anytime it could be my kids, grandkids and even yours. I sure would like to know how all you Obama haters would act if or when it is your child or loved one. I would be willing to be just like Porter you'd be singing a different tune. All these shootings have NOT been from mentally disturbed ;people. they have also been from folks who easily got access to guns. Most likely from someone at a gun show who sells guns without any checks or care other than to get money. Some NRA idiot. You need to think twice about the gun laws and try to pass a strict one. I agree with the president letting these folks speak. Wish other presidents had taken it to the people since the government should be of the people, by the people and for the people. I suppose you wanna be patriots forgot that .

    April 13, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  14. Fed Up

    We are told we shouldn't judge all Muslims based on a few radical ones bent on hurting and killing people. Why are we now judging all gun owners based on a few crazy people? Isn't what's good for the goose, good for the gander??

    April 13, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  15. Another US Citizen

    So when do I get my chance to address the Nation with my personal agenda? I'm a citizen too.

    April 13, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  16. disgusted with politics

    what a disgusting display using sandy hook parents to further the agenda when it is obvious to many that now that the emotions are starting to settle down and reason and logic are entering the picture they put emotion back up to pass crap that would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy. I'm tired listening to an emotional response yes it was a tragedy but it does not give you the right to take the freedoms of the citizens away because of a crazy person.

    hopefully reason and logic prevail or we as americans should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing us to give up our freedom for a false sense of security. it is a travesty that our military has given 100's of thousands of lives to protect our freedoms and we are now giving them away for safety. .

    April 13, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  17. ryan

    As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.[16]

    i am truley sorry as to what happened to the families i truley doi agree people with a crimnial record with mental problems should not be able to bye guns but i dont trust this president one damn bit all those who believe his words listens to his speeches without useing your ears and researching him dont realise he doesnt care about this nations freedoms, and he uses these families for his uses, the families are so sad and heartbroken they shouldnt be used this way, by are leader's who want more control and power over us. i know are freedoms and people i ask that you go to cato.org go to their store on their website and buy the handbook THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AND THE CONSITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA read and study it its only $4.95 or get 10 for $10. and ill bet most of u will be amazed how much of are freedoms are slowly being taken away. obama wants more taxes with more spending and they want bigger government. obama is no good and im telling you as a patriot a revolution will come because the day police officers come to my house and say hand over your gun i say " COME AND TAKE IT IF YOU CAN' i would rather fight and die for all of u and protect your freedoms and rights that that this country was born under.

    U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A

    April 13, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  18. MaryM

    To all you people degrading these families by saying they are being used by the POTUS. They are not being used. These families want to be there. They want to speak. I hope you never have to experience the heart break, grief and sadness that these families are feeling.

    April 13, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  19. Bill Miller

    How long can he possibly keep tap dancing on the graves of dead children? It's this type of behavior that makes me confident that those were crocodile tears he gave when the tragedy happened. "Dead kids! Sweet! I get to move my agenda! Woot!" We'll go ahead and ignore the fact that this mother is not exactly a subject matter expert. Is the victim of a lightning strike suddenly an expert on electricity? Douche move.

    April 13, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  20. afred

    This is shameful, to exploit this woman's tragedy towards his political agenda.

    April 13, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  21. Carol Johnson

    When we have people who not care if others loved one get killed by a mass murderer and then make light of it and say the second amendment gives all the right to own guns and holler and scream every time some one mentions gun control are as stupid as pet rock.
    If it were you son or daughter, mother or father, I bet you would not make so much light of the gun control.
    what good is an assault weapon for anything but to kill and that is why they were developed by the military!!
    Why can hold magazines of thirty rounds are more and even chain or belts of rounds, SO THEY CAN KILL MORE IN LESS TIME!!'
    So you say your or someone can change magazines in three seconds or less, maybe the first one, but then they get harder for you cannot hold that many in your hands and you have to rely on pockets, pack or some other place to hold them and the more times you have to change the magazines the longer it takes and people can seek safety.
    I say they should ban assault weapons and pass a law that only magazines of 8 rounds can be sold to the public!!

    April 13, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  22. pilot546

    Worst leader ever,

    April 13, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  23. jodyhall77

    rs Their children died because a nut job attacked a gun free zone...not because of the Bill of Rights.

    April 13, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  24. al

    that stupid idea of using a hurt mother to deliver this speech is just plain stupid, it only makes me angry of such a dirty tactic used by this administration to promote their agenda.

    April 13, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain

    @mysimru: "I thought money was being cut but Obama still has money to fly people around on Airforce one."

    President Obama was flying back anyway; do you really think it cost much to fly folks back with him? We're talking about some food and beverages, max.

    YOU need to wake up to the lies that you're being fed by the likes of Fox and all the right wing radio haters.

    April 13, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
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