Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting
September 17th, 2013
07:11 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting

Updated 9/17/2013 at 8:03pm

(CNN) -The Washington Navy Yard shooting could possibly have been prevented if tougher background checks were in place, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, raising new concern about the frequency of mass shootings.

“The fact that– we do not have a firm enough background-check system– is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings. And, you know, I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings,” he said in an interview with Telemundo.

“Everybody expresses understandable horror. We all embrace the families and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with those families right now– as they're absorbing this incredible loss,” he added.
Obama pushed for “commonsense gun safety laws” that could help reduce gun violence, like the shooting in Washington that killed 12 people. The gunman also died.

“Initial reports indicate that this is an individual who may have had some mental health problems. The fact that we do not have a firm enough background-check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings," he said.

Asked by Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart if the Navy Yard shooting meant Americans were condemned to live in a country where massacres are just a part of daily life, the president said that didn't have to be the case, but he put the onus for action on the Congress to reform on gun control laws.

"I have now, in the wake of Newtown, initiated a whole range of executive actions. We've put in place every executive action that I proposed right after Newtown happened," he said. "So I've taken steps that are within my control. The next phase now is for Congress to go ahead and move."

But the situation in Congress appears unchanged from this past spring when bipartisan legislation proposing tougher background checks failed to gain enough support.

Will Navy Yard rampage move the dial on gun control?

Exasperated gun control advocates in the Senate said they remain several votes short of what is needed to pass tougher background checks to prevent felons and the mentally ill from buying guns.

"We don't have the votes," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who earlier led the Senate in a moment of silence for the victims of the tragedy. "I'd like to get them but we don't have them now."

"I don't know when enough is enough," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last year in Newtown, Connecticut, last year led an unsuccessful effort to toughen gun laws.

She said she is "not optimistic" the Navy Yard shooting would do enough to change the political equation in Congress where most Republicans and several Democrats remain wary of new gun laws.

Top House Dem: Gun lobby likely to block new laws

In response to Newtown, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, tried to pass compromise background check legislation but it fell five votes shy on a vote in April.

He said he wants to wait for the facts to come in on the Navy Yard shooting before making a push to vote again on his bill because it would be "ridiculous" to have senators vote on it again "if we don't have the support."

Manchin hopes Democratic senators, like Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Begich of Alaska, and Republican senators like Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted against his bill before might change their minds and support it in the future.

Family members of Newtown victims will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday lobbying lawmakers to support tougher background checks. Their visit, which comes nine months after that incident, was planned before the Navy Yard shooting.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina didn't point to gun control when he was asked about the 12 fatalities at the Navy Yard at the hands of a sub-contractor who gained access to the base legally.

"My question is how do people get hired? It's not the weapons so much as how did he pass the security clearance? What kind of security screening do we have that we give secret clearances and jobs on important navy facilities? That to me is the bigger question," he said. "I don't think anything has changed about guns."

CNN's Dana Bash, Lisa Desjardins, and Becky Brittain contributed to this report.

Filed under: Gun control • Gun rights
soundoff (280 Responses)
  1. hamlet

    Yes toughen up the Top Secret and Military site background checks; how on earth did a person with multiple criminal entries on his record ever be able to get access to a military site of any kind.

    How did Hewlett Packard ever let him be hired on a vendor team to support our military.

    Now if that is the background check Obama is talking about I support him.

    September 18, 2013 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
  2. pete veslocki

    This is not a political issue.
    We need a balanced spproach.

    Purchading a gun and getting a security clearance present much the same risks to the general public and nation. Why not use simular background checks to get reasonsble assurances we sre not creating problems for ourselves? Possibly solving two problems at once.

    Obviously 5 year secutity clearances versus 10 which also included reviews of applicants police records and current mental health would help.

    September 18, 2013 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  3. Truthful1

    The fundamental questions are not that the DC Shooter received a proper Back Round Check for the Weapons he purchased prior to the deadly shooting killing 12 Civilians at the DC Navy Yard. The Navy Veteran Shooter somehow worked for a Government Contractor who had a Criminal Record both in the Navy, and as a Civilian who also was being treated last month at the VA because he was suffering from Mental Psychotic Behavior. How did this Criminally Insane Navy Veteran get a Secret Security Clearance, and why didn't the Navy, and Navy Contractor where he was employed conduct a Backround Check not for owning a Fire Arm, but to get a job on a Secured Navy Base in our Nation's Capital? Why isn't President Obama as a priority checking with the DHS who are supposed to be networking, and sharing information with the US Navy Reserve, Civilian Contractors granted a Secret Clearance, and the Veterans Administration. I bet Dollars to Donuts that the VA never classified the Navy Veteran Mass Shooter in DC to be Mentally Psychotic because, then the Navy/VA would have to treat him and pay him as a Service Connected Disabled Veteran which would trump his status as an Other Then Honorable or General Discharge from the US Navy.

    September 18, 2013 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  4. Data Driven

    Well, I quite agree that the Pentagon/Navy blew it when it came to checking this guy's background.

    But hey, let's give them more money; maybe they'll do it right.

    NAH. They'll just spend it on some cool-looking helicopter.

    September 18, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  5. Jerry

    Our military, and intel agencies are now diminished as they were at the end if the Clinton presidency (and you can throw the carter presidency in there too). Those of us who are old enough to remember can tell you how destructive these leftists are to our safety and economic well being.

    September 18, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
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