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. ?

    so...mentally ill people won't be able to get jobs?

    September 17, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. I'm_so_tired

    and 90% of the population was ok with it..but congress voted no..shut up obama I am sick of you

    September 17, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  3. Pathetic

    Bs, felons and mentally I'll are already banned.

    September 17, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  4. bilbo

    there was no documented mental illness history, and no felonies. how would a background check help? he had already been given next to top secret clearance by the government – beyond penalizing citizens for crimes they haven't committed yet, we just have to accept that freedom has dangers. you want to be 100% safe, go live in a padded room.

    September 17, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  5. JH

    Tougher background checks?! Are you fricken serious?! Yea since everyone who did a shooting and people who are cereal killers have a criminal background. Wrong! Maybe and I say maybe 10% of them had a criminal backgound. If someone wants to kill someone I will bet my life they will find a way to get a gun or use something to kill that person. Plain and simple. I swear you people who are in politics have no street smarts and live in a whole different reality.

    September 17, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  6. Raquel Orduna

    I don't think that conducting more thorough background checks will stop all of the shootings. If a person wants to harm people, if that is their goal, they will find a way to get it done. A stricter background check won't stop a criminal from stealing someone else's gun. A stricter background check won't stop someone with a mental illness from creating their own weapons. A better health care system could do that though. If we have more resources available to mentally ill people, maybe they could get help and cure their sickness. Instead of focusing on stopping people from harming other people with weapons, how about we get them help as a person? I believe this because an everyday criminal will not abide by the new gun laws. Criminals are criminals because they do not follow the law. Changing gun laws are going to keep the good, law abiding citizens from their Second Amendment right. Let's focus more on helping the mentally ill people get healthy, and less on keeping guns from the good citizens of America.

    September 17, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Sounds like mental health is the real problem. Maybe the government should have kept resources in that, instead of insisting on selling it to the highest bidder at the time.

    September 17, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  8. CaseY

    This ought to be interesting

    September 17, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  9. Mike932

    Is he drawing a red line? lol

    September 17, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  10. Bill Davis

    The Republicans are going to immediately be against it....

    September 17, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  11. idiocracy

    The _________________ shooting could possibly have been prevented if tougher background checks were in place.

    Seriously, are we still talking background checks?

    September 17, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  12. NMEast

    This man was a reservist – how much more of a background check do you need? He had already gone through a Federal background check. Is Obama saying that's not good enough? Will every service man/woman need to be retested?

    September 17, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  13. b

    careful what you wish for mr.prez, if background checks get any tougher, you might not be CIC.

    September 17, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  14. Jakk

    Go back to playing golf.

    September 17, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  15. mansouth

    ban guns asap

    September 17, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  16. mansouth

    Isn't it too late to ban guns? What are we waiting for to ban guns? How many more people should die before bringing stricter gun laws? Why are we so shameless?

    September 17, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  17. Evervigilant

    He passed a background check. Fact is until you stop protecting mentally ill individuals this will keep happening. Obama sounds like a broken record and Feinstein showed herself to be a complete moron as well.

    September 17, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  18. wut

    Mental illness is a serious issue. Mental illness and its' effects have far reaching consequences.

    September 17, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Only if you get rid of the NFA.

    September 17, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  20. Mike from Illinois

    It's not really a matter of making the background checks "tougher." It's actually DOING them correctly, which obviously didn't happen in this case. And the nonsense about how background checks aren't required for guns purchased at shows is tiring – they ARE required, and they are done (hopefully correctly).

    September 17, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  21. change?

    I dont understand how people like Lindsay Graham get voted into their positions. If these people were not outraged when children were massacured in Nretown then I dont see how this recent shooting is going to make much difference. Just a week ago Lindsay Garham was out there trying to talk the moral issues over the killing of children and people in Syria. Yet when senseless killing happen in his own country he does nothing to try and make change. I dont live in your country, but as someone looking in, none of this makes sense.

    September 17, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  22. kenweil

    I ask what could have been done to prevent this even the universal background check they wanted would not have stopped this. He bought the gun legally with a background check.

    September 17, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  23. Adak95

    Does that include members of his administration?

    September 17, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  24. pditty

    Government facility
    Some of the most stringent government control of firearms in the US
    Gun free Government policy at site
    Former Government employee is shooter
    Shooter received psychological care at a government facility from a government employed psychologist.

    Tell me why I should expect the government to prevent this from happening again? Why should I look to the government for protection?

    September 17, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  25. reverie

    The guy had a Department of Defense security clearance. If he was too mentally unstable to own a gun, maybe he shouldn't have a government security clearance either.

    September 17, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
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