Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting
September 17th, 2013
07:11 PM ET
9 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. Ben

    The Navy's background check wasn't enough, but millions of citizens will be better vetted? The absurdity of gun control fanatics has been made obvious with this tragedy. When that does not work, they'd ask for banning all guns, leaving the victims defenseless against the crazy ones. If more people in building 197 had guns, this would have not happened! Liberals will let people die since for them a population that can defend itself is not controllable.

    September 17, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  2. Juan

    You're seriously going to blame guns again? How about the background check failure on the government side when he got the job?

    September 17, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    Pass gun-ban laws.

    September 17, 2013 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  4. googoo

    its not about tougher gun laws if someone snaps and they have a semi automatic weapon they will use it . Its the weapon that kills people.

    September 17, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  5. scranton

    I'll take that old smith & wesson top break in the middle please.

    September 17, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Umm... didn't this guy pass all kinds of background checks for his GOVERNMENT contracting job?

    September 17, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  7. Anthony

    How can you toughen them if these don't work in the current form? He never should have been able to purchase a firearm. Lets bring in mental health...

    September 17, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  8. Bill

    So the same guy who crows for background checks seems to have forgotten that his government gave this guy a clearance to work on military bases, which was recently renewed.

    I really hope that the background check for a SECURITY CLEARANCE would be at LEAST as stringent as one for a firearm, wouldn't you think?? And yet, they FAILED to catch on that this guy was Looney Tunes, and renewed it??

    So, pray tell, what good will your hallowed background checks for guns do?? NONE. Sure won't stop the criminals either, since they don't follow laws as it is!

    September 17, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  9. Randy

    Maybe Obama should look at the failed system that allowed this guy to get on the base in the first place. This was not a gun control failure, it was a security failure. This shows just how little politicians care about the problems in our nation and how much they focus on their own agenda.

    September 17, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  10. Jim Boston

    I agree with a basic background check. The mental health and stability of an individual who wants to purchase a gun should be checked, but I don't think that should be determined by the Federal Government. A person should only be required to show a simple letter of health from his doctor when applying for a firearms license in his or her own State. It makes sense. All these mass shootings have one thing in common...the perpetrator suffered from mental health issues that were not properly treated. And that is the bigger issue here. We have FDA approved drugs on the market that cause more side effects and problems for some individuals than others.

    September 17, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  11. Chris

    Dear Mr. Obama,

    The real problem is not pollution, corruption, gun-control, or any one specific issue. It is a matter of enforcement. I think at this point that if congress were to read through every federal law on the books that they would be unable to complete the read-through in a years time (not counting all of their vacations and holidays).

    If the current laws are not enforced how is creating more going to solve anything? There is an industry around creating new laws. This is wrong at a fundamental level.

    Coincidentally it is the same problem with the medical situation. There is an entire "medical-billing industry": middlemen paid to shuffle papers with no real gain for the people footing the bill.

    September 17, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  12. Gary Phillips

    Yep, that's all we need are more gun laws. Funny how for centuries Americans carried guns with no restrictions at all and nothing like this ever happened. But now with all the strick laws it seems we have an epidemic on our hands. Of course CNN and friends weren't around two hundred years ago to sensationalize this behavior.just a thought.

    September 17, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  13. trac iog

    Obama suggests tougher checks might have prevented DC shooting

    Umm this guy had one of the toughest backgrround checks, and, was reported as a nutcase by the Rhode Island police to the Navy last Tuesday

    You can take your background checks aka registration and shove it

    September 17, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  14. Steven Gold

    What good to tougher background checks do when people can give a gun to a friend or family member legally. Neither side of the gun debate really has a good plan, when looking at the details of those plans put in to the real world.

    September 17, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  15. bergus

    more regulations is what got us here in the first place. if more people were carrying, the count would have been MUCH less. *tired of liberal stupidity*

    September 17, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  16. Pete/Ark

    CRAP – EVERY President and EVERY Congress since 1970 has sold out the military to low bid private contractors ... great for the old campaign fund ... total insecurity for DoD.

    September 17, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  17. Statistics

    The shooter had background checks far more stringent than anything in the civilian world; he had a government-issued security clearance. Why do the gun-control advocates think that MORE background checks would help? More background checks than a government "secret" clearance? Seriously? DC has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, and military bases even stricter laws even than that. Yet this still happened. Last I checked, same with Chicago ... super tough gun laws and yet some of the highest abuses and murder rates in the country. Sorry all; as much as we all would love to find a solution, the solution isn't "more background checks" and "tougher gun control laws." In 2012, Chicago was #3 and DC was #8. Sorry Obama and the gun-control groups, but if what you've done in those two places has not helped...why would you keep hammering on this?

    September 17, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  18. Jerry

    Why should anyone trust Obama?

    September 17, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  19. McLovin

    With all due respect Mr President. No amount of background checks at the time he purchased the shotgun would have detected his mental illness before it became apparent

    September 17, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  20. Alexander Rogge

    We need to toughen the background checks done to the foreign recipients of assault weapons through the Obama administration. Those recipients should be paying full-price for taxpayer-funded guns and other weapons, they should be paying for a tax stamp for each Class 3 weapon, and their ties to terrorism and other criminal activities such as murder of innocent civilians should be investigated. That's what Obama should be toughening, but instead he's exploiting another tragedy, a failure of a violence-free zone to stop a terrorist, while exempting himself from federal laws regarding the aiding of terrorists. This government is upside-down.

    September 17, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    how about background checks for security clearance.......

    September 17, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  22. Babaloo

    What we have here is a military who protects one of their own. In 2008 the shooter was arrested for a bar fight. He wouldn't stop cussing as police dragged him out of the bar so they arrested him. The Navy began a general discharge on him as his disorderly and bad conduct continued over the years and added another 8 counts. They couldn't find enough evidence for a general discharge so they gave him an honorable discharge. They dropped all charges!!! The Navy really screwed up on this one. I guess they just didn't want to ruin his "future". Little did they know their inaction to do something about this guy has now led to 12 dead innocent people! "Evil flourishes when good men do nothing!" That is for sure!

    September 17, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  23. Milroy

    does not matter what law u bring if somebody has made up their mind to shoot and go on a rampage they going to do it

    September 17, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  24. kerensky

    how about tougher security background checks?

    September 17, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  25. Bert974

    End the Crusade as well as Bushama's Reign of Terror.

    September 17, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
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