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. ThinkAgain

    @Sally Bergmoser: "Sad! But why not use the Mom's ,wives,and children of the Bengahzi murders too?"

    You obviously listen to Fox and all the other right wing liars. Ask yourself this: Wouldn't it have been MUCH better during the run up to the 2012 election for President Obama to have SAVED the Americans in Benghazi?

    And what is it about Sec. Clinton's COMPLETE testimony that you don't get? Follow-up question: Have you ever read or heard her COMPLETE testimony? If all you listen to is Fox – and never use your computer to actually look up FACTS – then you probably haven't. Be sure to read the part below that starts with, "It is our job ...."

    "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?

    It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this. But the fact is that people were trying in real time to get the best information….But, you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime."

    April 13, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain

    I have absolutely no problem with these parents exercising their First Amendment rights to try to influence the political process.

    To all you haters posting here: If it's OK for the NRA to spend millions of dollars spreading lies to promote the gun industry, then it fine for parents who've lost a child in the most horrific way possible to publicly express their grief.

    April 13, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  3. toby hill

    Put armed security guards behind bullet proof glass in the front area of every check-in point for visitors. I guarantee her kid would be alive if they had that at the school.

    April 13, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  4. Hindsight 20/20

    Some people would rather sit and do nothing in the name of the "right to bear arms." Those children were brutally murdered. The ones that witnessed it will never be the same. It's something you wish not upon your worst enemy: to lose a child so tragically. If it didn't happen to you, you'll never understand the pain. She can't just sit there and do nothing. If just one person can be saved due to someone being denied that gun through a background check then it is worth it.

    April 13, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  5. joeinalabama

    Is there not one pro gun person in Sandy Hook? I suppose we will never hear about them.

    April 13, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  6. ExDemBecauseOfObama

    I feel for the families that lost thier loved ones but I believe some of them are lashing out against guns rather then giving themselves time to heal. The way obama and his puppets are USING the Newtown tragedy is UNCONSCIONABLE !!! Obama has always wanted to take away our guns but he was getting nowhere until Newtown. Newtown turned out to be quite Convenient for him and his agenda. I HOPE it was just a sad coincidence. These new laws will have no effect on the criminals or the mentally ill. The government needs to put its time and money into dealing with them instead of making more laws that will only effect the people who are already abiding by the laws.

    April 13, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  7. jennifer in Houston

    Some of you are really sick.. and you are the reason guns need regulation.

    April 13, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  8. BigdaddyUSA

    Oh Obama, what's next to promote your agenda, Sandy Hook victim stamps? How long will you use these victims families for your political gain?

    April 13, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  9. Well I must say

    Well done. Great political scape-goating.

    April 13, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. Kartoosh

    Sandy Hook was a tragedy but these parents need to stop putting themselves first and think about the bigger picture that the NRA, GOP and Republicans are painting. Government control, abuse of the 2nd amendment, registries. These are far far FAR more important than the grief any of these families feel.

    April 13, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  11. Canadian across the border

    Shame on CNN for relegating this to a news bite, way down the list of news items. THIS IS REAL NEWS. You heard her say thousands of Americans have died by guns , since Sandyhook.elementary school tragedyjust 4 months ago. Obama well done for giving this misfortunate mom a chance to address the nation.

    April 13, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  12. Dan

    I am vary sad that these young kids were shot by a very sick person at Sandy Hook. Mr. Obama why are you using the parents to speak about Gun politics when you are supposed to speak thats not right. It is not my fault all of these shooting happened I have a safe everything is locked up no kids have the combo. I should not have to give up my rights because of a few mentally ill people.

    April 13, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  13. Malory Archer

    Wonton, the cops miost likely knew the wife beater had a gun because his wife told them when she reported the the beating. That he was out of control enough to assault his wife is reason enough to consider him dangerous. When my house was burglarized and I called the police, one of the first questions the dispatcher asked was, "are there any firearms in the house?" And I was the victim.

    April 13, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  14. terps fan

    If you don't like what's being said or how it's being done, just say so. Quit hiding behind hollow "speaking points" you picked up on your favorite radio program.

    April 13, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  15. Hope

    Oh get a grip and stop using the same old crap, you all sound like a broken record, originality is really lacking. It is common for people to push for laws after a tragedy. Does Amber, Adam, or Polly ring a bell? The only thing you should be doing is praying that you don't have to bury one of your own due to gun violence some day. There is nothing wrong with responsible gun laws, it is our duty. Kudos to this mother for having the guts to stand up.

    April 13, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  16. Nicholas Smith

    It is disgusting and a perversion of presidential power to have that poor woman pressing for the anti-gun agenda of the administration. Shame on them. Of course we all feel sorry for the Sandy Hook parents, but the administration should go after the State Judicial or Mental Health System, even the education system, NOT the guns and magazines of the general public across the nation. Shame on them.

    April 13, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  17. jjg

    the NRA did all it could to ensure the Newtown killer had those guns available to him. Now, they profess to want to protect us from such people. Total hypocrisy.

    April 13, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  18. G_Edwards

    Wow. The ultimate in never letting a crisis go to waste.



    April 13, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  19. Jack Dawson

    This is typical Obama campaign fluff. If logic and ethical respect for the Constitution do not work, go for the emotional approach. The funny thing is that the families from Sandy Hook who do not agree with BO did not get an invite to take Air Force One to DC . So, BO uses taxpayers money to push his political agenda and leaves opposing views out. Sooner or later those families ought to get tired of being used as campaign slogans. Everyone feels sorry for the families, but passing laws based on emotional response is a bad idea, but it makes for good press.

    April 13, 2013 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  20. RD1981

    A mental health registry? Are you serious? Even if you look at the extremely anti-gun group "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" you will see that, in their claim of 43 mass shootings (which the count as shootings involving 4 or more deaths), they stated the following:
    Few mental-health red flags came up before most of the shootings. In just four of the 43 shootings was there evidence that someone had raised concerns about the mental health of the killer to authorities beforehand. Likewise, the report notes, there was no evidence that any of the shooters had been prohibited from owning firearms because of mental-health concerns.

    Claiming that "the mentally ill" is the problem is one of the most ignorant statements I have seen in quite some time. 26% of the US population over the age of 18 have a diagnosed mental illness. Are you seriously saying that more than 1/4 of the US population needs to be included in some national registry because of 4 people? That is the most idiotic thing I have ever seen. You should be ashamed of yourself. Perhaps we should have a national registry of the ignorant instead, because I would trust someone with a mental illness and a gun over allowing someone like you anywhere near one.

    April 13, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  21. Second Amendment

    "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."

    Stop trying to guilt trip us. I'm sorry she lost her child, but stop using her as a pawn for gun control, it's getting sick.

    April 13, 2013 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  22. Tony

    It is wrong to keep law abiding citizens from being able to buy guns. But how does government know they are law abiding if they don't check their background. I believe in the second amendment but when it was written they did not have the technology nor the weaponry we have today. The second amendment needs to be update for the times we live in.

    April 13, 2013 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  23. Ray Barnes

    Once again Obama proves that he will stoop to any level to promote the same failed gun control agenda that the likes of Feinstein and Schumer have been touting since the 1990's. The pro second amendment folks do not compromise on this issue because we know that whatever gun control concession we make will be demanded 10 fold when when it fails to make a difference and the next tragedy occurs. I believe that the gun control crowd wants nothing short of total disarmament of the citizenry. They see these tragedies such as sandy hook as a means to that end. They do not want to push for legislation that will make a real difference such as armed guards in schools since that would reduce the number of school shootings and would not support their agenda.

    April 13, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  24. Mike M

    Obama is a desperate man resorting to desperate measures. LAME DUCK

    April 13, 2013 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  25. jhawk3

    Obama did not invite victims that oppose gun legislation to Washington, that should tell that he's using the victims as puppets for his agenda.

    April 13, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
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