Obama has largely steered clear of gun debate
President Barack Obama speaks by phone Friday morning with the mayor of Aurora, Colorado after the mass shootings there. (photo credit: Pete Souza/The White House)
July 21st, 2012
10:26 AM ET

Obama has largely steered clear of gun debate

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(CNN) - In a speech after the Colorado shooting Friday, President Barack Obama asked Americans to pray, reflect and remember what's important in life while the city of Aurora mourned the dead and wounded.
"If there's anything to take away from this tragedy it's the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it's not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives," Obama said in Fort Myers, Florida, before returning to the White House.
But Friday's shootings are likely to propel the issue of gun rights and gun safety into the national conversation again, even though the president did not address it on Friday and has largely avoided the subject while in office.
Daniel Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, criticized Obama on Friday for steering clear of the issue in office.
"President Obama has refused to even talk about guns. In a speech today he didn't even say the word 'gun.' The closest he came was 'gunman,' "Vice said. "Unfortunately the president has shown a lack of leadership in standing up to the gun lobby."
Talk of gun rights was largely absent from Obama's speech in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting in 2009 and after then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot in Tucson, Arizona, last year. Obama mentioned gun safety only in passing after the Tucson shootings to describe the polarizing nature of the issue.
However, amid renewed discussions, the president penned an opinion piece two months after the Tucson shootings that acknowledged the importance of the Second Amendment and called for a "focus" on "effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place."
The president's three-step plan included enforcing existing laws, rewarding states that provide the best data about gun owners and a better system for background checks.
"Clearly, there's more we can do to prevent gun violence," he wrote in the Arizona Daily Star. "But I want this to at least be the beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people."
But he did not go as far as he had on the campaign trail in 2008. As a candidate for president he adamantly declared he would not "take away your guns," while supporting a platform that included reinstituting the assault weapons ban, stopping destruction of background check documents and closing the federal gun show loophole.
"If you've got a riffle, you got a shotgun, you've got a gun in your house, I'm not taking it away," Obama said in Pennsylvania in September 2008 after stressing the importance of "common-sense gun safety measures."
Gun safety advocates have expressed disappointment with the president's actions since taking office, particularly over his failure to fight for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. They pointed out Obama signed bills into law that allowed loaded weapons in some national parks and on Amtrak trains and the destruction of background check documents.
Advocates at the Brady Campaign said the only step he took to support their cause was backing a rule requiring gun dealers who sell multiple rifles to individuals along the border with Mexico to report the sales to law enforcement.
But they acknowledged their task is particularly difficult when the head of the Nation Rife Association, Wayne LaPierre, repeatedly attacks the president for working against the Second Amendment.
"Obama has already signed on to destroy the Second Amendment and our freedom," LaPierre said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. "(He has) endorsed a total ban on manufacture, sale and possession of all handguns."
White House spokespeople have been consistently vague when pressed on gun rights by members of the media. When asked Friday if the president would take steps to curb gun violence in the form of gun safety laws after the Aurora shootings, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, "The president believes that we need to take common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights of Americans, while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing law do not get them."
"There has been progress in that regard in terms of improving the volume of quality of information in background check, but I have nothing new," Carney added.
In July 2011, Carney said the president directed Attorney General Eric Holder and state leaders to identify measures that would improve safety and protect Second Amendment rights.
"We expect to have some more specific announcements in the near future," Carney said. But no announcements have been issued.
Gun rights continue to divide Americans. A Pew survey released in April showed 49% of Americans found it more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns, while 45% said it was more important to control gun ownership. The figures shifted when broken down by party ideology, race and sex. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats said it is more important to protect gun rights, while 72% of Republicans said the same. Sixty percent of men found it more important to protect gun rights and 39% of women found it more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns.
Divides also exist among campaign contributions, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission, which show an influx of cash disproportionately geared toward Republican candidates.
In the 2012 cycle, presumptive Republican presidential Mitt Romney has received $126,440 from gun rights groups, compared to Obama's $2,300. That trend is consistent with the 2008 cycle, when Sen. John McCain collected $483,711 in such contributions and Obama received $25,987.


soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Herry69

    so, it looks like americans want to marry their guns !

    July 21, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Steveo

      I 'll never get my 5 seconds back! What a shame!

      July 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  2. demwit

    Independents are mainly for gun ownership. Obama will have more room to deal with this one after the election too.

    July 21, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Howard

      "Yeah ... like I told the Russians ... I'll be more flexible after the election ... code words for: if I get reelected, I'll be able to go back on all my campaign promises ... just like I did in 2008. And, what if I do cover up my crimes ... what are you going to do about it .. complain to the mainstream media? ... they will just defend and excuse me ... they always do. And what if there is incriminating evidence against me? Well, I'll just bury the records, and invoke executive privilege ... and if that doesn't work, who are you going to go to for justice ... Eric Holder? ... Holder works for me !!!"

      July 21, 2012 at 11:47 am |
      • Howard

        What happened in Colorado was caused by ONE lone lunatic ... however, the left is already trying to exploit this tragedy to repeal our 2nd amendment. Personally, I trust the right for Americans to bear arms, more than I trust the total authority of a government, with no accountability, or oversight ... who can and does change the rules ...to gain self serving power ...at the cost of the people. Our constitution has served Americans, and preserved our right, for 235 years. I an not ready to let a radical, two bit community organizer, transform America into Venezuela .

        July 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
      • DEcember 2012

        JEEBUS, I KNOW YOU'RE A HYSTERICAL TWIT BUT COULD YOU AT LEAST CITE SOURCES WHEN YOU POST NONSENSE LIKE THIS? WHO SAID THEY WANTED TO REPEAL THE 2ND AMENDMENT?

        July 22, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  3. TM

    No other country in the world has this kind of problem with guns they way ours does. I love Obama but it's a shame that he has not dealt with this problem head on. The NRA gets to hunt while families have lost loved ones forever. They'll never recover from this tragedy. A gun owner can always find themselves a new toy. So sad that a simple solution glaring us in the face cannot be done. Doesn't make sense....

    July 21, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Steveo

      More human beings have died from abortions. When are you ready to tackle that? Why can't you understand the criminal element will ALWAYS have access to weapons? That is one reason we call them CRIMINALS!

      You want to regulate weapons? Start with those that are illegally owned and let's see how far you get!

      July 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, yet more blacks are killed by guns each year. What has Obama done to correct this problem?

      July 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
      • Steveo

        Remember a few years back, there was a story of a bad guy who broke into the home (in Chicago) of an elderly vet and his wive? The vet killed the bad guy to protect his wife, his home and himself. If up to the left, they would have rather buried the Vet and his wife but not the bad guy!

        July 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • DEcember 2012

      LET' ME TRY TO UNDERSTAND SOMETHING HERE. HOW MANY OF YOU GUN OWNERS WOULD ACTUALLY BRING A LOADED FIREARM TO A MOVIE THEATER EVEN IF IT IS LEGAL TO DO SO?

      HOW MANY OF YOU WOULD STOCKPILE AS MANY FIREARMS, AMMO, AND EXPLOSIVES EVEN IF IT IS PERFECTLY LEGAL?

      I AM JUST ASKING HOW MANY OF YOU WOULD HAVE THE SENSE TO DO IT AND ACTUALLY RATIONALIZE IT.

      July 22, 2012 at 10:21 am |
      • acdcguy

        I live in a state that is open carry and I carry everywhere that I'm allowed to. Yes, the movie theater being one of them which is mostly with the wife and kids. I own several guns as I enjoy sporting clays, hunting and target shooting. Just had my boy(8) with me yesterday at the our gun club so he could shoot .his 20ga and .22. Taking him on his first dove hunt in couple months. Got off track but I believe in teaching kids young, takes all the curiosity out of guns for them. Back to carrying.........ran across this somewhere, pretty much sums it up for me...........

        I don’t carry a gun to kill people.
        I carry a gun to keep from being killed.
        I don’t carry a gun to scare people.
        I carry a gun because sometimes this world can be a scary place.
        I don’t carry a gun because I’m paranoid.
        I carry a gun because there are real threats in the world.
        I don’t carry a gun because I’m evil.
        I carry a gun because I have lived long enough to see the evil in the world.
        I don’t carry a gun because I hate the government.
        I carry a gun because I understand the limitations of government.
        I don’t carry a gun because I’m angry.
        I carry a gun so that I don’t have to spend the rest of my life hating myself for failing to be prepared.
        I don’t carry a gun because I want to shoot someone.
        I carry a gun because I want to die at a ripe old age in my bed, and not on a sidewalk somewhere tomorrow afternoon.
        I don’t carry a gun because I’m a cowboy.
        I carry a gun because, when I die and go to heaven, I want to be a cowboy.
        I don’t carry a gun to make me feel like a man.
        I carry a gun because men know how to take care of themselves and the ones they love.
        I don’t carry a gun because I feel inadequate.
        I carry a gun because unarmed and facing three armed thugs, I am inadequate.
        I don’t carry a gun because I love it.
        I carry a gun because I love life and the people who make it meaningful to me.
        Police protection is an oxymoron.
        Free citizens must protect themselves.
        Police do not protect you from crime, they usually just investigate the crime after it happens and then call someone in to clean up the mess.
        Personally, I carry a gun because I’m too young to die and too old to take a butt whoopin’.

        July 23, 2012 at 6:45 am |
      • DEcember 2012

        SO IT SEEMS TO ME THAT CARRYING A FIREARM IS RULED TOO MUCH BY FEAR. FOR ME, THAT JUST SEEMS TO MUCH OF A WINDOW FOR MISTAKES AND WITH A GUN THAT CAN BE FATAL. THERE IS SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR BEING TRAINED AND DISCIPLINED ENOUGH EARLY ON TO CARRY SUCH A WEAPON BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, I THINK MOST PEOPLE WOULD PREFER NOT TO AND MOST PEOPLE DON'T.

        IN THE CASE OF AURORA, EVEN IF YOU ARE CARRYING A FIREARM, I THINK IT WOULD HAVE TO BE A HIGH CALIBER WEAPON TO OUTGUN THE SHOOTER AND PENETRATE WHATEVER BODY ARMOR HE WAS WEARING. I WOULD BET THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULD NOT HAVE THAT AND WOULD JUST ADD FUTILITY TO THE CHAOS.

        AS FOR GUNS, I AM NOT AGAINST IT SAFELY STORED IN YOUR HOME. I AM NOT IMMUNE TO THE FEAR OF HAVING TO PROTECT YOUR OWN HOME WHICH IS WHY I BELIEVE IN THE 2ND AMENDMENT IN THIS REGARD.

        July 23, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  4. Steveo

    He does not need to weigh in. We already knows where he stands!

    July 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  5. Mary 930

    President Obama-2012

    July 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  6. Name*Carla

    My condolences to the families of the victims and the surviving victims. How can a man buy all those weapons and not get flagged??? Each time he was checked out there should have been a bell go off. Companies that sell arms and ammunition should act responsibly and report unusual purchases to the authorities. Who needs to buy assault rifles?

    July 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Steveo

      No doubt somewhere, somebody failed!

      July 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  7. Frank Marshall Davis

    Russia has some of the toughest gun laws in the world yet their murder rate is much higher than ours. If somebody wants to kill bad enough they'll do it with whatever is at hand.

    July 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  8. BRIAN

    Wow, I thought most of the comments would be about the tradgedy but I see some people still hating the President. Wow, rest easy, "you all" will have "your country back" in due time. Amazing......

    July 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  9. jerry

    obama is from the murder capital of the world...where he was a community organizer....did a great job there didn't he? What could he say about gun control? After all he shielded the black panthers, a group as violet as they come, from prosecution.... another bad joke.

    July 23, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  10. jerry

    OMG...here is a photo of obama acting like he is president...reminds me of the airfarce one he flew in all over the country when he was campaigning....another fake photo opp....since he can't he might as well look like he can...empty dirty shirt!

    July 23, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  11. Luke

    As tragic as this is, why is media not reporting the month long protests in mexico city after the elections on july 1st????? i bet this comment gets deleted

    July 23, 2012 at 1:18 am |
  12. LoneWolf

    what if gun privlages were taken away; it wouldnt stop any criminals to get their hands on one, it would just make things all so much harder to protect ourselves and the ones we love,
    live good, be smart, don't forget how precious life is, how short it can but doesnt have to be.
    love others, care for others, earn our rightful place in this world
    even if it means away from others
    dont forget to smile
    chew your food well. ;)

    October 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm |