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. Fredd

    killings will happen, just fix the economy instead

    September 17, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  2. Kenman

    Of course Obama suggests as many government intrusions into the public life as possible! But the fact is evermore obvious, even this simple process of background checks is beyond the ability of the corrupt and inept federal bureaucracy!

    Even when checking the background for a person with top secret clearance with access to a US Naval base, where critical secrets and information are volleyed about, they can not even find police reports that news agencies can find online in minutes! They do not do anything with the information that someone walks up to them and hands them; they are so bureaucratically retarded that nothing they say they want to do serves the purpose they say it was intended for!

    All their information gathering, now through our own cell phones, e-mails, social networking sites, public video surveillance, etc., are being handled with the sensitivity and competence of a bull in a china shop!

    September 17, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  3. bob

    These people need to be removed from office just like in Colorado.

    September 17, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  4. hammer

    Here we go again.

    September 17, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  5. Scott

    That is not going to help, there were Federal Gun Laws all ready on the books, and yet the shooter found a way around them. If a criminal or bad guy want to get a gun they will find a way. More laws will not do anything.

    September 17, 2013 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  6. J-Staff

    My prayers go out to the families who lost their loved ones to this maniac. I think it is common sense that someone who starts complaining about hearing voices through walls should not be allowed to buy or possess fire arms. A lot of people are pointing at his secret clearance asking how he could have gotten arrested and had mental health problems and still have a that clearance... I am not sure when his investigation date was but secret clearances are only updated/reinvestigated every 10 years, so he could get arrested 5 times within those 10 years and, if he does not self report it, he will continue to have that clearance until the next investigation. For top secret clearances the requirement is every 5 years but the same scenario could play out within that 5 year window.

    September 17, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. Leo

    I agree. Toughen the background checks of government employees and contractors.

    September 17, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  8. christy

    How about Obama strength mental health...

    September 17, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  9. brown

    America has been too busy spending tax revenues for war to further Israeli national security objectives

    Perhaps they should think about spending money at home to provide mental health services for its citizens!

    September 17, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  10. srcactus

    Politicians blaming guns to shield government enforcement of existing law so that they can enact more laws!? This is ridiculous! Government screw ups caused red flags to me missed by how many government agencies and how many different jurisdictions??
    Life is such that we will have drownings, shootings, burnings etc. and in the end, we can do better but this is not a perfect world and there are very many not so perfect people residing here.

    September 17, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. Igottagetalife

    If a person is under psychiatric care and nothing about his/her condition is pushed to be recorded, then how are tougher checks going to pick up the problem?

    September 17, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  12. jay

    No matter what thee so called government dose there still gonna be black markets gun flea markets, people who want to do shottings don't go thru backgrounds they just buy where a person only wants cash nothing more, what we need to do instead is place kept them guessing law where we thee viticms are armed & ready, none of this death toll would be cause if we are ready he or she won't make it pass thee first, but stop taking away our protection & start arming us, people would think twice noting people are packing before doing any crime.

    September 17, 2013 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  13. Lee

    Also need check if the Obama qualified for the presidentship

    September 17, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  14. Leo

    Could someone at CNN please provide the American people with a toxicology report? Was this man on any kind of drugs either illegal or prescription? What about the other shooters in Connecticut and Colorado?

    September 17, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  15. Chris

    Background checks??? How many background checks did this guy pass?

    September 17, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  16. JJ

    The president is wrong to suggest that a firm background check would have prevented the shooting. The fact and the mater is this particular shooter asked for help from the VA on two different occasion. Now the president is suggesting to black mail anyone who seeks help for mental health. Mr. President, focus on the providing a quality mental health care rather than punishing people who seek for help.

    September 17, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    President Obama just doesn't get it. The shooter must likely had the guns before he was diagnosed with mental problems. He needs to grow a spin and quite being some rich persons whipping boy.The new background checks wouldn't have helped anyway if he had the weapons before school massacre shootings.

    September 17, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  18. eleanor

    Members of Congress who vote against reasonable gun laws such as stricter background checks are owned body and soul by the NRA and gun manufacturers who profiteer on gun violence in this country. It is not about the Constitution, it is all about money! It is not about freedom. It is about sanity. What is happening on a regular basis in this country is beyond horrific.

    September 17, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  19. Barbara

    There are a couple of things to note here. This individual's clearance was initially granted by the Department of Defense through his service in the U.S. Navy. Once you are discharged from the military, your clearance remains in an active state, just not owned/managed by any one agency. You have 24 months from the time of discharge from Active Duty before this clearance runs out and you would have to start the process from the beginning. Contractors are granted clearances such as Secret, Top Secret, Top Secret SCI & Top Secret SCI w/Lifestyle Polygraph. It should be noted that the military is the one who initially granted his clearance and with all of his problems, could have pulled his clearance at any point and/or the system, JPAS, could have reflected this information whereupon subsequent clearances would NOT have been granted. There are many, many great civilians and contractors out there working for the Federal Government all over the world, to include war zones such as Afghanistan. As in the incident in Ft. Hood, if other military units had not dropped the ball, took action when situation with an individual first comes to light and deal with the problem rather than ignore it and make it someone else's problem, than neither one of these situations would have occurred.

    September 17, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  20. Ldl

    I agree on one point as a life NRA member no problem with background checks have them now in our state. But a typical politician let's take weapons and disarm the honest US citizens and send weapons to the rebels who are the future terrorists.
    As usual the media jumped in with assualt weapons lies and now it took wapons from his victims – shame on their news explotation.

    September 17, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  21. KH

    If this happened once a decade, one could make the argument that gun laws are ok the way they are. But it happens again, and again, and again and again. There have been so many mass shootings in this country that it takes pages to list even the ones in the last 10 years. Every country has crazy people. Only in the US do we make it so easy for them to get access to guns.

    September 17, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  22. JamesinOKC

    Keep pushing that agenda guys.... background checks do nothing to stop the flow of illegal guns coming from zero border control in the south. If a felon wants a gun, there is one available to him/her on every street corner. Stop the flow of illegals, close the border, deport the ones who are not here to add to society, and then we can see violence dramatically go down just as fast as the unemployment rate will go down.

    September 17, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  23. bs1

    More pathetic anti-gun lies. The Navy shooter passed a background check, there isn't anything "tougher" that would have made a difference. Mental health information is frequently not made available for background checks, in large part due to lawsuits by the ACLU and others to prevent it, but it seems the Navy shooter was never comitted and only recently looked for help from the VA, far too early for anything to have been determined about him.

    September 17, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  24. I'mvotingforHillary

    The blood is on the GOP's hands.

    September 17, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    You can't do anything in America about guns because you have created a culture of guns and if you create new laws only the law abiding will conform, and the criminals will have the spoils and continuero wreak havoc even more than they do now. Welcome to the end. I wish I had an answer, because your end is the end of all of us. You only know one thing, go out with guns a blazing. Thanks for patrolling the world against terrorists. Thanks more for blowing the world up tomorrow because of you obstinate nature.

    September 17, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
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