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. chris mac

    I am SICK OF THIS! Why does this administration and the anti-gunners REFUSE to take control of our country's mental health problem? It's because they are too shallow to deal with the problem at hand. It is easier to look at the shallow....the immediate....the emotionally satisfying. It is easier to blame the tool than the illness.
    We NEED you to help us with our friends/family that have mental healthy problems. Stop wasting our time with your impotent and unwanted political agenda and help us. Help our mentally ill.

    September 17, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  2. UriNation

    There he goes again; suggesting a pipe-dream.

    September 17, 2013 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  3. Devin ALden

    ok most dems forget that almost every states already has some form of background checks... and that biden had said about the 2000 plus laws we have on the book concerning guns "that we could not enforce them " ok so so lets add more laws that we cant enforce...enforce the ones on the book and let citizens with conceal carry to stop a crime when it happens not after but when it does to minimize the body count as much as possible. these mass shooters are not looking for resistance...they want an easy body count. as soon as they meet resistance they either kill themselves or give up or die in an unplanned fire fight. why not give that resistance tot he shooter as soon as he opens up instead of after a bunch of cops group up which takes minutes even sometimes half hour to get organized by that time the mass shooter has left his imprint in a large toll. when seconds count police are their in minutes

    September 17, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  4. rory

    Background checks, they are now pointing the finger at background checks. I would almost guarantee that this guy would have been hired even under the most scrupulous of background checks. I work for a back ground check company. This is a joke, no one wants to see the issue of guns. Good grief, there are millions of people who go to work and don't shoot anyone every day...that did not go through the background checks this guy probably went through. I can't stand politicians, always pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

    September 17, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  5. Yank

    It was reported that Aaron Alexis (the Navy Yard Shooter) had under gone two extensive background checks in the last 12 months for his secret level clearance. His employer stated that he only had a minor moving violation on the check. So again Obama is using a tragedy to push for gun legislation that would not have prevented it.

    September 17, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  6. Michael Benjamin

    It's time to stop offloading government security background checks to private industry. All they are interested in is turning a profit. Why isn't the FBI conducting these investigations like they used to?

    September 17, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  7. scott

    What will he want after he gets that? Anyone can snap. Freedom has a price. This is a free republic country. Get out if you don't like it Mr. president.

    September 17, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  8. Bob from Accounting

    How about we strengthen the security on our bases first?

    September 17, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  9. Dan

    Background checks?

    I can go into Oakland right now, and buy any weapon you can think of from illegals that bring them across the border from Mexico. . . . They don't even know how to spell "background check". This law wouldn't stop anything, unless you close down the border.

    September 17, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    That's the 1st thing I ever agreed with... We can start by USING THE ONE WE ALREADY HAVE,,,

    September 17, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  11. Enough with the Lies!

    How on earth would "tougher background checks" have stopped this?


    He passed "background checks" far tougher than Obama himself ever did.

    September 17, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  12. Jack Dawson

    It is already illegal for felons to buy or possess firearms, and falsifying the questions on the transfer of a firearm is a felony. Just exactly how do you want to make it tougher? The catch phrase used all the time is "common sense" which is really a joke because the politician advocating "common sense" legislation have no common sense to begin with.

    September 17, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  13. J.

    How about addressing the core issue, mental health. I challenge any reader here to try and setup an appointment with a psychiatrist. First, you need a recommendation from a family Dr. or weeks of expensive counseling. Oh Yeh, second part to this challenge....You have to do it with no insurance and living paycheck to paycheck.

    September 17, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  14. CM

    Biden: buy more shotguns.

    September 17, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  15. 77037481

    Typical CNN state run media.

    September 17, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  16. Marc O

    Did Obama learn nothing from the CD report that he demanded be conducted after the Sandy Hook school shooting? The CDC report was extensive and clearly stated that there are excessive gun laws in place today and they are not enforced. Adding more would yield no benefits. Washington D.C. has extensive gun laws – even ones that violated the constitution and required the Supreme Court to demand that they be corrected. This was a military base with extensive security. Police even warned the Navy that this guy was a nut job and nothing was done. How does adding more laws help anything? Virtually all mass shootings in the last 20 years have occurred in "gun free" zones. The gun laws aren't as big a problem as the fundamental approach to the safety of our citizens.

    September 17, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  17. Tim H

    1. This dirt bag had two previous weapon violations/arrests on his record. Should have been flagged.
    2. Patterns of misconduct in the Navy. Instead of other than honorable discharge, he was given an honorable, no doubt from his command being scared of being called racist or not PC.
    3. Called the police prior about voices in his head two weeks ago.
    4. PASSED a FBI NICS check 3 days ago.
    5. AND NO AR-15 was used, he used a Joe Biden recommended shotgun.

    So where is new gun control going to make a difference?

    Investigate who gave him is secret clearance for access to this Naval base and prosecute them.

    Investigate who granted him his honorable clearance and prosecute them.

    Will never happen from Holder the poor excuse for a AG.

    September 17, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  18. curious

    "Voices" are the conscience whether well or ill advised.
    We all have the "angel" or "devil" on the shoulder – what we breathe more life into is up to debate sometimes and the strength of that "voice".
    Sanely self advised or just plain out of control.
    The mind and perception is everything.

    September 17, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  19. ass9

    What the government wont do to push their agenda. False flag.

    September 17, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  20. KFoster

    He didn't suggest, he came out with both barrels blazing (excuse the expression), and made sure his trained CarneyDog was there to beat the same drum. WHY IS THERE MENTION on CNN that the news outlets got it wrong? There WAS no rifle, AR-15 or otherwise. I am sick to death of the lies and propaganda. Welcome to USSA.

    September 17, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  21. Jakinak

    An individual involved in two previous criminal acts with a firearm passed a back ground check and "0" wants to talk about adding "common sense regulations" that will result in more transactions to the system that approved this purchase???

    September 17, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  22. jason smith

    what about being able to defend yourself, with a concealed weapon, and armor, shouldn't that be considered too? – rather than believing the laws of prohibition will solve the problem.

    September 17, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  23. cgr182

    Why was our president making this argument on Telemundo? Seems America is tired of listening to his useless rhetoric so he has found other outlets.

    September 17, 2013 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  24. Craig p

    How about stop pandering to minorities. This is harsh, but is the reason he had the job. There is NO WAY, a Caucasian 30 year old, would have a security clearance with his background. Period. I am an ex 10th mountain, blackwater /xe guy, I saw this crap ALL the time. They were always made a victim and given special privileges and now 12 people are dead because of it.

    September 17, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  25. G. T. Simpson

    Another useless and unneeded proposal from our Dear Leader – we already have tons of guns law that are not enforced. Obama is proposing another "feel good" type of legislation that will do nothing to address the real problem.

    September 17, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
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