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. Correctlycenter

    I am deeply saddened by this mother's loss. I will continue to pray for the families affected by this tragedy. However, we as Americans cannot simply erode our constitutional rights every time there is murder committed by a mentally unstable individual with a firearm. The families of victims from vehicular homocides and cases of manslaughter do not go around and protest/speak out for the prohibition of cars, SUVs, minivans, motorcycles and trucks. do they?

    What about drugs, alcohol, tanning beds, tools in the garage and knives in the kitchen?

    April 13, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  2. Boring Media Hype

    This is simply grandstanding by the criminal in the WH to advance his own agenda. It has noting to do with anything else

    April 14, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  3. mmi16

    So EVERYONE is a law abiding citizen – and just what are the 2 + million people that are currently in jail and will be released – every year hundreds of thousands of 'non-law abiding cititizens' are put back on the streets. Without a background check – they look just like a law abiding citizen. Give them the legal gun.

    The crying from the NRA wussies make me asahmed to be an American – they don't want to be accountable for any of the violence theirweapons facilitate.

    Take Newtown – Lanza was able to fire 154 rounds and kill 26 people in 5 minutes – People that use weapons to kill people walk among us – day after day after day – death after death after death.

    April 14, 2013 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  4. Joe Moe

    Exactly, sorry for your loss, it breaks my heart, BUT don't mess with my Gun rights!

    April 14, 2013 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  5. Wake up

    @Wonton. People need to get serious. Right wing nuts concerned about background checks as a way for the government to track us. What you right wing nuts seem to forget is the PATRIOT ACT which gives the gov the right to track and arrest anyone they want without due process. Oh and wasn't this ACT supported by you right wing nuts? Where were your guns when that bill passed? You guys are so hypercritical it's not even funny.

    April 14, 2013 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  6. James Schulz

    Why doesn't Obama and his transparent admin. Let the Mother of the murdered Navy seal in Benghazi talk at the White House??
    I know why.. Because he single handedly let them die. He is a piece of Garbage. Wake up America we have a Terrorist in the highest position in Washington. Guns don't kill people! People kill people.

    April 14, 2013 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  7. Mike Steele

    I admire this woman's courage and I am grateful that the President isn't afraid to challenge the NRA.
    The NRA has no moral standing.

    April 14, 2013 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  8. DGreen

    I pray that God will see fit to stop this president from using these people any more. I am so sad for them, they are being fooled that they are doing something for the good of all, while they are only starting something that will effect everyone in this country. Once one right goes down, others will. Do you even realize that the Army is now training soldiers with a list of possible terrorists that contain "Evangelical Christians" and "Catholics"? Yes they are. Do you realize that Homeland Security has told Colorado Sheriff's that they should monitor Christians, because they may be planning domestic terrorism? Sound's crazy, but it's in the news. These 'new laws' will not and would not have addressed any of the mass shootings. Even in Aurora, the psychologist warned police a month in advance and it was not even acted on. There are better ways to deal with this problem that would be much more effective. And one big way is for the media to stop endlessly glorifying these killers by endlessly repeating their names and showing their pictures. Even the Columbine killers said that they wanted to be famous for what they did, and the media shows every potential future killer that every one of them are given more and more attention as these things happen.

    April 14, 2013 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  9. Tommy67

    One should not pass laws based on emotions and empathy. The AR-15 was banned in Conn before the shooting. Why is this fact hidden from the public?

    April 14, 2013 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  10. xqqqqme

    “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.”

    No one is fighting against such bills because no such bills have been presented. All the democrats want to do is grab guns and create a federal registry.

    And shame on them for continuing to use the Sandy Hook families to push their agenda.

    April 14, 2013 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  11. compassionate conservative

    All those 'sensitive' tear drenched liberals are rampaging through NY, CT, MD, etc. usurping minority rights with their 'mob rule' ramrod legislation. What's up next for the liberals; Obama fiddling Pagliacci while burning the Constitution?

    April 14, 2013 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  12. MK237

    Obama wanted gun control long before this happened. The fact that he is using this situation to fuel his own agenda is pathetic. No law that can be passed will stop this from happening again. No assault weapon was even used in the school. He used hand guns that were purchased by his law abiding school teacher mother..Why don't Obama look at his own state that has been leading the country in gun violence?

    April 14, 2013 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  13. Matt

    One notes that while the President has spent many tax dollars to jet around with a select few of the Sandy Hook families, the families who do not support his political agenda were specifically excluded.

    Shameful, Mr. President. America expects and deserves better from it's President.

    April 14, 2013 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
  14. Wired-Up

    This is what happens when one side refuses to change anything. The NRA blatently refuses to do anything at all to help gun violence. So, what happens then? You get something nobody likes. It is a constitutional right to own a gun. The constitution however, doesn't give you the right to own every or any type of weapon and accessory. To the pundits who say that a "well armed militia" needs these weapons...really? If you think that you and your AR-15 are going to take out a SEAL squad is laughable. Grow up and be part of helping the solution instead of whining about Obama. SOMETHING needs to be done.

    April 14, 2013 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  15. Oscar

    About 35,000 children are harmed by vaccines each year, and about 13% or 4,500 of those are deaths or severe permanent brain injury. Several times more children die in the US from vaccines than from guns.

    A demagogue President could have the parents of kids killed by vaccines speak against them. The news outlets could run a half dozen news stories - every day - of kids crippled or killed by vaccines and make people they are causing a massacre.

    It is impossible to point to name a single person "saved" by a vaccine.. You can only estimate the number saved.

    Same with guns. Sober estimates of crimes prevented by law abiding gun owners are one million to 4.7 million per year (see Wikipedia "defensive gun use" ) to see the studies listed, That is about 400 to 1,200 crimes prevented per day by legal gun owners, including plenty of murder and rapes that are prevented.

    It isn't just the President with his political agenda, or lapdog press .Most of the gun "violence" researchers, ie the anti gun researchers, actually directly parrot the anti-vaccine movement's irrational and unscientific language and methodology.

    In short once you start o cravenly bring out the child victims the game has sucked al the rationality out of the issue, You can attack all kinds of overall social goods. You can attack vaccines. Even more alarmingly you can attack the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and even the First, amendments, which can be argued to cause the death of more kids than the Second Amendment.

    April 14, 2013 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  16. Cambridge Ray

    I am a newcomer to America, but the one thing I learned years ago, is about those who call themselves "Conservatives".

    Conservatism (the Extreme Kind) is based on 5 principles:

    (1) Hate and Fear
    (2) Hate and Fear
    (3) Hate and Fear
    (4) Hate and Fear
    (5) Hate and Fear

    Then there is a distant 6th. and 7th.

    (6) The implicit belief that Time Travel will address their needs
    (7) Lack of Compassion

    April 14, 2013 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  17. J.V.Hodgson

    The low blow was the guy killing 20 kids and 6 teachers, does it not occur to you that if he did not have accesss (mentally ill or not) to the AR rifle capable of firing 30 bullets per magazine. ( Most " responsible gun owners" tell me they can change a mag in 4 seconds and I can run along way in 4 seconds) I guess you are upset because we the people ( in the majority at least) think this family has at least the same if not more right than you to speak, and if you thik using them hurts to a degree that will result in/ make changes you dont want... tough!! Grow up and argue you case against.

    April 14, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  18. joe

    I haven't seen the administration ask any Iraqi's to comment on how the U.S. invaded their country and killed tens of thousands of civilians

    or for that matter, the families of innocent civilians killed by drone strikes in Pakistan.

    April 14, 2013 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  19. Greg

    It is sad, your still not getting my guns

    April 14, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  20. jeezlouise

    I am so sick of these people acting like they are the ONLY crime victims in America that matter- We know what happened- now stop using the murders to manipulate people. Obma is a scam artist and is using this crime to take away freesom from Americans – its disgusting how quick peopel are to use murder to gain celebrity. Wonder how much we paid for their high brow trip to Washington.. Disgusting people.

    April 14, 2013 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  21. Harley

    Definitely in poor taste. At one time I had some respect for our current President but over the past year, that has declined. Law makers are obviously missing the boat because the challenge of dealing with Mental Illness is too great and can't be accomplished in the time he has left in office. Or how about cleaning up the Gang violence in the areas? Absolutely ridiculous. Also it's important to understand WHY Lanza shot his mother point blank in the face. Taking away one's rights is the easy solution to a very complicated matter.

    April 14, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  22. Johnny DC

    And who decides whether a person is stable enough to possess a weapon?

    Checkmate, Leftists.

    April 14, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  23. Mke

    I can understand the families of the victims having their guard down, and not realizing that they are Obama's useful idiots, but I cannot understand how a heartless Obama can continue to use the victim's families to limit our freedom!!

    April 14, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  24. mike

    I am giving these parents the benefit of the doubt by saying that their grief is causing them to be irrational. When are we going to pass laws holding citizens responsible when a local member of society is known to be potentially dangerous ... and nobody lifts a finger to prevent a tragedy?

    When are we going to hold the Connecticut state legislature responsible for the Newtown shooting? It is reported Nancy Lanza had initiated legal proceedings to have her son institutionalized. However, those records are sealed; therefore the report cannot be either proved or disproved. But one thing is easily confirmed by The Treatment Advocacy Center who is the nation’s leading source of information and expertise on civil commitment laws and policies. Here's what they have to say.

    "Connecticut is one of only six states that do not authorize involuntary treatment in the community, often called “assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) ” or “outpatient commitment.” Such laws often make it possible for people with mental illness to receive medical care before they are so ill they require hospitalization or experience other consequences of non-treatment." ..... "The six states that do not have AOT laws are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Nevada, and Tennessee."

    It is public record that in early 2012, a bill was introduced in the Connecticut legislature (SB 472) which would have created an AOT law in that state. The ACLU mounted a massive opposition to this bill, which ultimately resulted in its failure to be enacted into law. The result was the massacre at Newtown's Sandy Hook School.

    April 14, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  25. Sarah Reinecke

    Obama would use his own children for political gain, he is unable to lead therefore resorts to PROPS.

    April 14, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
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