Gun Common Sense

ANOTHER GUN FIGHTER SPEECH

BY PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA

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The White House

January 5, 2016

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PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.

Mark, I want to thank you for your introduction.  I still remember the first time we met, the time we spent together, and the conversation we had about Daniel.  And that changed me that day.  And my hope, earnestly, has been that it would change the country.

Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.  It wasn’t the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last.  Fort Hood.  Binghamton.  Aurora.  Oak Creek.  Newtown.  The Navy Yard.  Santa Barbara.  Charleston.  San Bernardino.  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks to a great medical team and the love of her husband, Mark, my dear friend and colleague, Gabby Giffords, survived.  She’s here with us today, with her wonderful mom.  (Applause.)  Thanks to a great medical team, her wonderful husband, Mark — who, by the way, the last time I met with Mark  — this is just a small aside — you may know Mark’s twin brother is in outer space.  (Laughter.)  He came to the office, and I said, how often are you talking to him?  And he says, well, I usually talk to him every day, but the call was coming in right before the meeting so I think I may have not answered his call — (laughter) — which made me feel kind of bad.  (Laughter.)    That’s a long-distance call.  (Laughter.)  So I told him if his brother, Scott, is calling today, that he should take it.  (Laughter.)  Turn the ringer on.  (Laughter.)

I was there with Gabby when she was still in the hospital, and we didn’t think necessarily at that point that she was going to survive.  And that visit right before a memorial — about an hour later Gabby first opened her eyes.  And I remember talking to mom about that.  But I know the pain that she and her family have endured these past five years, and the rehabilitation and the work and the effort to recover from shattering injuries.

And then I think of all the Americans who aren’t as fortunate.  Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns — 30,000.  Suicides.  Domestic violence.  Gang shootouts.  Accidents.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children.  Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life.

A number of those people are here today.  They can tell you some stories.  In this room right here, there are a lot of stories.  There’s a lot of heartache.  There’s a lot of resilience, there’s a lot of strength, but there’s also a lot of pain.  And this is just a small sample.

The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people.  We are not inherently more prone to violence.  But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency.  It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries.  It’s not even close.  And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.

And instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates — despite the fact that there’s a general consensus in America about what needs to be done.  That’s part of the reason why, on Thursday, I’m going to hold a town hall meeting in Virginia on gun violence.  Because my goal here is to bring good people on both sides of this issue together for an open discussion.

I’m not on the ballot again.  I’m not looking to score some points.  I think we can disagree without impugning other people’s motives or without being disagreeable.  We don’t need to be talking past one another.  But we do have to feel a sense of urgency about it.  In Dr. King’s words, we need to feel the “fierce urgency of now.”  Because people are dying.  And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do, no longer suffice.

That’s why we’re here today.  Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one.  (Applause.)  To prove that the vast majority of Americans, even if our voices aren’t always the loudest or most extreme, care enough about a little boy like Daniel to come together and take common-sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children.

Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start — and I’ve said this over and over again, this also becomes routine, there is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do — I believe in the Second Amendment.  It’s there written on the paper.  It guarantees a right to bear arms.  No matter how many times people try to twist my words around — I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this — (applause) — I get it.  But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.

I mean, think about it.  We all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech, but we accept that you can’t yell “fire” in a theater.  We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people.  We cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. It’s not because people like doing that, but we understand that that’s part of the price of living in a civilized society.

And what’s often ignored in this debate is that a majority of gun owners actually agree.  A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking feud from inflicting harm on a massive scale.

Today, background checks are required at gun stores.  If a father wants to teach his daughter how to hunt, he can walk into a gun store, get a background check, purchase his weapon safely and responsibly.  This is not seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment.  Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents have suggested, this hasn’t been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation.  Contrary to claims of some presidential candidates, apparently, before this meeting, this is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns.  You pass a background check; you purchase a firearm.

The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules.  A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked.  A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records — one out of 30 had a criminal record.  We’re talking about individuals convicted of serious crimes — aggravated assault, domestic violence, robbery, illegal gun possession.  People with lengthy criminal histories buying deadly weapons all too easily.  And this was just one website within the span of a few months.

So we’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects themselves to a background check.  That doesn’t make sense.  Everybody should have to abide by the same rules.  Most Americans and gun owners agree.  And that’s what we tried to change three years ago, after 26 Americans -– including 20 children -– were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Two United States Senators -– Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, both gun owners, both strong defenders of our Second Amendment rights, both with “A” grades from the NRA –- that’s hard to get  — worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our Vice President, who has been a champion on this for a long time, to write a common-sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check.  That was it.  Pretty common-sense stuff.  Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea.  Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea.  But it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.

How did this become such a partisan issue?  Republican President George W. Bush once said, “I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.”  Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole, saying, “We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws.”  Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks.  And by the way, most of its members still do.  Most Republican voters still do.

How did we get here?  How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?

Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying.  I reject that thinking.  (Applause.)  We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world.  But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.

Some of you may recall, at the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill — with a knife — a bunch of children in China.  But most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon.  We maybe can’t save everybody, but we could save some.  Just as we don’t prevent all traffic accidents but we take steps to try to reduce traffic accidents.

As Ronald Reagan once said, if mandatory background checks could save more lives, “it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”  The bill before Congress three years ago met that test.  Unfortunately, too many senators failed theirs.  (Applause.)

In fact, we know that background checks make a difference.  After Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40 percent — 40 percent.  (Applause.)  Meanwhile, since Missouri repealed a law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, gun deaths have increased to almost 50 percent higher than the national average.  One study found, unsurprisingly, that criminals in Missouri now have easier access to guns.

And the evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding Americans don’t find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever.  Their guns have not been confiscated.  Their rights have not been infringed.

And that’s just the information we have access to.  With more research, we could further improve gun safety.  Just as with more research, we’ve reduced traffic fatalities enormously over the last 30 years.  We do research when cars, food, medicine, even toys harm people so that we make them safer.  And you know what — research, science — those are good things.  They work.  (Laughter and applause.)  They do.

But think about this.  When it comes to an inherently deadly weapon — nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly — weapons that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, Congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into gun violence; made it harder to collect data and facts and develop strategies to reduce gun violence.  Even after San Bernardino, they’ve refused to make it harder for terror suspects who can’t get on a plane to buy semi-automatic weapons.  That’s not right.  That can’t be right.

So the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage.  (Applause.)  We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to be clear.  Congress still needs to act.  The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does.  (Applause.)  Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures we can reduce gun violence a whole lot more.  But we also can’t wait.  Until we have a Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives -– actions that protect our rights and our kids.

After Sandy Hook, Joe and I worked together with our teams and we put forward a whole series of executive actions to try to tighten up the existing rules and systems that we had in place.  But today, we want to take it a step further.  So let me outline what we’re going to be doing.

Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions.  (Applause.)  It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show.  It’s not where you do it, but what you do.

We’re also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations and various cutouts.

We’re also taking steps to make the background check system more efficient.  Under the guidance of Jim Comey and the FBI, our Deputy Director Tom Brandon at ATF, we’re going to hire more folks to process applications faster, and we’re going to bring an outdated background check system into the 21st century.  (Applause.)

And these steps will actually lead to a smoother process for law-abiding gun owners, a smoother process for responsible gun dealers, a stronger process for protecting the people from — the public from dangerous people.  So that’s number one.

Number two, we’re going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books, which means we’re going to add 200 more ATF agents and investigators.  We’re going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis. We’re working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence, where too often — (applause) — where too often, people are not getting the protection that they need.

Number three, we’re going to do more to help those suffering from mental illness get the help that they need.  (Applause.)  High-profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others.  But the truth is, is that nearly two in three gun deaths are from suicides.  So a lot of our work is to prevent people from hurting themselves.

That’s why we made sure that the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — (laughter and applause) — that law made sure that treatment for mental health was covered the same as treatment for any other illness.  And that’s why we’re going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country.  (Applause.)

It’s also why we’re going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system, and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information.  If we can continue to de-stigmatize mental health issues, get folks proper care, and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

And for those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts.  Put your money where your mouth is.  (Applause.)

Number four, we’re going to boost gun safety technology.  Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally.  In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents –- and that includes 30 children younger than five years old.  In the greatest, most technologically advanced nation on Earth, there is no reason for this.  We need to develop new technologies that make guns safer.  If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?  (Applause.)  If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet — which happens to me often the older I get — (laughter) — if we can do it for your iPad, there’s no reason we can’t do it with a stolen gun.  If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can’t pull a trigger on a gun.  (Applause.)  Right?

So we’re going to advance research.  We’re going to work with the private sector to update firearms technology.

And some gun retailers are already stepping up by refusing to finalize a purchase without a complete background check, or by refraining from selling semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines.  And I hope that more retailers and more manufacturers join them — because they should care as much as anybody about a product that now kills almost as many Americans as car accidents.

I make this point because none of us can do this alone.  I think Mark made that point earlier.  All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them.  Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.  (Applause.)  And that was denied Jews in Kansas City.  And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.  (Applause.)  They had rights, too.  (Applause.)

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette.  Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown.  First-graders.  And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad.  And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.  (Applause.)

So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.  All of us need to stand up and protect its citizens.  All of us need to demand governors and legislatures and businesses do their part to make our communities safer.  We need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better.  (Applause.)

And we need voters who want safer gun laws, and who are disappointed in leaders who stand in their way, to remember come election time.  (Applause.)

I mean, some of this is just simple math.  Yes, the gun lobby is loud and it is organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody, any time.  Well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate.  We have to be just as organized in defense of our kids.  This is not that complicated.  The reason Congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections.  And if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws, they’ll change course, I promise you.  (Applause.)

And, yes, it will be hard, and it won’t happen overnight.  It won’t happen during this Congress.  It won’t happen during my presidency.  But a lot of things don’t happen overnight.  A woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight.  The liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight.  LGBT rights — that was decades’ worth of work.  So just because it’s hard, that’s no excuse not to try.

And if you have any doubt as to why you should feel that “fierce urgency of now,” think about what happened three weeks ago.  Zaevion Dobson was a sophomore at Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He played football; beloved by his classmates and his teachers.  His own mayor called him one of their city’s success stories.  The week before Christmas, he headed to a friend’s house to play video games.  He wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He hadn’t made a bad decision.  He was exactly where any other kid would be.  Your kid.  My kids. And then gunmen started firing.  And Zaevion — who was in high school, hadn’t even gotten started in life — dove on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets.  And he was shot in the head.  And the girls were spared.  He gave his life to save theirs –- an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old.  “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We are not asked to do what Zaevion Dobson did.  We’re not asked to have shoulders that big; a heart that strong; reactions that quick.  I’m not asking people to have that same level of courage, or sacrifice, or love.  But if we love our kids and care about their prospects, and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote.  We can find the courage to get mobilized and organized.  We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do.

That’s what we’re doing today.  And tomorrow, we should do more.  And we should do more the day after that.  And if we do, we’ll leave behind a nation that’s stronger than the one we inherited and worthy of the sacrifice of a young man like Zaevion.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  Thank you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END

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Gun 2013

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Another gun-fighter speech by President Obama…

Duel At Diablo5

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The President’s Afterword

on the defeat of the common-sense gun regulation bill in the U.S. Senate

April 17, 2013

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A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies — including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who’s here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers –- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence.

Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders –- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children. And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.

By now, it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun. We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness. Ninety percent of Americans support that idea. Most Americans think that’s already the law.

And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea. But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.

A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks. But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.

I’m going to speak plainly and honestly about what’s happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen. We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with “A” grades from the NRA — come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks. And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that. That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.

As they said, nobody could honestly claim that the package they put together infringed on our Second Amendment rights. All it did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet. So 60 percent of guns are already purchased through a background check system; this would have covered a lot of the guns that are currently outside that system.

Their legislation showed respect for gun owners, and it showed respect for the victims of gun violence. And Gabby Giffords, by the way, is both — she’s a gun owner and a victim of gun violence. She is a Westerner and a moderate. And she supports these background checks.

In fact, even the NRA used to support expanded background checks. The current leader of the NRA used to support these background checks. So while this compromise didn’t contain everything I wanted or everything that these families wanted, it did represent progress. It represented moderation and common sense. That’s why 90 percent of the American people supported it.

But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would create some sort of “big brother” gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn’t matter.

And unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators. And I talked to several of these senators over the past few weeks, and they’re all good people. I know all of them were shocked by tragedies like Newtown. And I also understand that they come from states that are strongly pro-gun. And I have consistently said that there are regional differences when it comes to guns, and that both sides have to listen to each other.

But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics — the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections. They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment.

And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse — any excuse — to vote “no.”

One common argument I heard was that this legislation wouldn’t prevent all future massacres. And that’s true. As I said from the start, no single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil. We learned that tragically just two days ago. But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand — if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try.

And this legislation met that test. And too many senators failed theirs.

I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?

I’ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. “A prop,” somebody called them. “Emotional blackmail,” some outlet said. Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don’t have a right to weigh in on this issue? Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?

So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.

But this effort is not over. I want to make it clear to the American people we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence, so long as the American people don’t give up on it. Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities. We’re going to address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background check system. We’re going to give law enforcement more information about lost and stolen guns so it can do its job. We’re going to help to put in place emergency plans to protect our children in their schools.

But we can do more if Congress gets its act together. And if this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters.

To all the people who supported this legislation — law enforcement and responsible gun owners, Democrats and Republicans, urban moms, rural hunters, whoever you are — you need to let your representatives in Congress know that you are disappointed, and that if they don’t act this time, you will remember come election time.

To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this legislation, you need to let your leadership and lobbyists in Washington know they didn’t represent your views on this one.

The point is those who care deeply about preventing more and more gun violence will have to be as passionate, and as organized, and as vocal as those who blocked these common-sense steps to help keep our kids safe. Ultimately, you outnumber those who argued the other way. But they’re better organized. They’re better financed. They’ve been at it longer. And they make sure to stay focused on this one issue during election time. And that’s the reason why you can’t have something that 90 percent of Americans support and you can’t get it through the Senate or the House of Representatives.

So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this. And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington. And that requires strength, and it requires persistence.

And that’s the one thing that these families should have inspired in all of us. I still don’t know how they have been able to muster up the strength to do what they’ve been doing over the last several weeks, last several months.

And I see this as just round one. When Newtown happened, I met with these families and I spoke to the community, and I said, something must be different right now. We’re going to have to change. That’s what the whole country said. Everybody talked about how we were going to change something to make sure this didn’t happen again, just like everybody talked about how we needed to do something after Aurora. Everybody talked about we needed to change something after Tucson.

And I’m assuming that the emotions that we’ve all felt since Newtown, the emotions that we’ve all felt since Tucson and Aurora and Chicago — the pain we share with these families and families all across the country who’ve lost a loved one to gun violence — I’m assuming that’s not a temporary thing. I’m assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words.

I believe we’re going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it. And so do the American people.

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Photo: “Duel at Diablo” 1966

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It’s time to do something…

duel at diablo

Sidney Poitier “Duel At Diablo” 1966

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REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON PREVENTING GUN VIOLENCE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 4, 2013

(full text)

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Hello, everybody. Please have a seat. Have a seat.

Well, it is good to be back in Minnesota. (Applause.) It is good to be back. Although I was commenting that they don’t really have winter in Washington, D.C. (Laughter.) So I’ve gotten soft over these last four years. When I was in Chicago, this was nothing. Now it’s something. (Laughter.) But I’m grateful for all of you being here today. I want to thank Chief Harteau and the entire Minneapolis Police Department for having me here today.

There are a number of other people that I just want to acknowledge here. First of all, a wonderful man and one of America’s greatest public servants is here — Walter Mondale, former Vice President. (Applause.) Your outstanding Governor, Mark Dayton, is here. (Applause.) Two great Mayors — Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis, and Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul. (Applause.) And your outstanding congressional delegation — Senator Amy Klobuchar — (applause) — Senator Al Franken — (applause) — Representative Keith Ellison — (applause) — and Representative Betty McCullough. (Applause.)

And I should acknowledge my outstanding Attorney General — what’s your name again? (Laughter.) He does a great job every single day, and I could not be prouder of Eric Holder for his leadership on this issue in particular. (Applause.)

Now, I just had a chance to sit down with some local police officers but also community leaders, as well as folks who themselves had been victims or whose families had been victims of gun violence, to hear their ideas about how we can protect our kids and address the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country. Because if we’re serious about preventing the kinds of tragedies that happened in Newtown, or the tragedies that happen every day in places like Chicago or Philadelphia or Minneapolis, then law enforcement and other community leaders must have a seat at the table.

All the folks standing here behind me today, they’re the ones on the front line of this fight. They see the awful consequences — the lives lost, the families shattered. They know what works, they know what doesn’t work, and they know how to get things done without regard for politics.

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So we’ve had a very productive discussion. And one of the things that struck me was that even though those who were sitting around that table represented very different communities, from big cities to small towns, they all believe it’s time to take some basic, common-sense steps to reduce gun violence. We may not be able to prevent every massacre or random shooting. No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there’s even one thing we can do, if there’s just one life we can save, we’ve got an obligation to try.

That’s been the philosophy here in Minneapolis. A few years back, you suffered a spike in violent crime involving young people. So this city came together. You launched a series of youth initiatives that have reduced the number of young people injured by guns by 40 percent — 40 percent. So when it comes to protecting our children from gun violence, you’ve shown that progress is possible. We’ve still got to deal with the 60 percent that remains, but that 40 percent means lives saved — parents whose hearts aren’t broken, communities that aren’t terrorized and afraid.

We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something. (Applause.) That’s my main message here today.

And each of us has a role to play. A few weeks ago, I took action on my own to strengthen background checks, to help schools get more resource officers if they want them, and to direct the Centers for Disease Control to study the causes of violence. Because for a long time, even looking at the evidence was considered somehow tough politics. And so Congress had taken the approach that, we don’t want to know. Well, that’s never the answer to a problem — is not wanting to know what is going on.

So we’ve been able to take some steps through administrative action. But while these steps are important, real and lasting change also requires Congress to do its part and to do it soon, not to wait. The good news is that we’re starting to see a consensus emerge about the action Congress needs to take.

The vast majority of Americans — including a majority of gun owners — support requiring criminal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun. (Applause.) So right now, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are working on a bill that would ban anyone from selling a gun to somebody legally prohibited from owning one. That’s common sense. There’s no reason we can’t get that done. That is not a liberal idea or a conservative idea; it’s not a Democratic or Republican idea — that is a smart idea. We want to keep those guns out of hands of folks who shouldn’t have them.

Senators from both parties have also come together and proposed a bill that would crack down on people who buy guns only to turn them around and sell them to criminals. It’s a bill that would keep more guns off the street and out of the hands of people with the intent of doing harm. (Applause.)

And, by the way, in addition to reducing violence on the streets, it would also make life a lot easier and a lot safer for the people standing behind me here today. (Applause.)

We shouldn’t stop there. We should restore the ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines. (Applause.) And that deserves a vote in Congress — because weapons of war have no place on our streets, or in our schools, or threatening our law enforcement officers. Our law enforcement officers should never be out-gunned on the streets. (Applause.)

But we also know that if we’re going to solve the problem of gun violence, then we’ve got to look at root causes as well. That means we should make it easier for young people to get access to mental health treatment. (Applause.) We should help communities like this one keep more cops on the beat. (Applause.) And since Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, they should confirm your U.S. Attorney from Minnesota, Todd Jones, who is here today and who I’ve nominated for this post. (Applause.)

These are common-sense measures supported by Democrats, Republicans and independents, and many of them are responsible gun owners. And we’re seeing members of Congress from both parties put aside their differences and work together to make many of them a reality.

But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last four years, it’s that you can’t count on anything in Washington until it’s done. And nothing is done yet. There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of conversation, a lot of publicity, but we haven’t actually taken concrete steps yet.

Last week, the Senate held its first hearing since Newtown on the need to address gun violence and the best way to move forward, and the first people to offer testimony were Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly. They talked about how a complex problem like this has no single solution, but if we still had a 10-round limit on magazines, for example, the gunman who shot Gabby may never have been able to inflict 33 gunshot wounds in 15 seconds. Fifteen seconds, 33 rounds fired. Some of the six people who lost their lives that day in Tucson might still be with us.

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Now, changing the status quo is never easy. This will be no exception. The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it’s important. If you decide it’s important. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen, Americans of every background stand up and say this time it’s got to be different — we’ve suffered too much pain to stand by and do nothing.

And by the way, it’s really important for us to engage with folks who don’t agree with us on everything, because we hope that we can find some areas where we do agree. And we have to recognize that there are going to be regional differences and geographic differences. The experience that people have of guns in an urban neighborhood may not be the same as in a rural community.

But we know, for example, from polling that universal background checks are universally supported just about, by gun owners. The majority of gun owners, overwhelming majority of gun owners think that’s a good idea. So if we’ve got lobbyists in Washington claiming to speak for gun owners saying something different, we need to go to the source and reach out to people directly. We can’t allow those filters to get in the way of common sense.

That’s why I need everybody who’s listening to keep the pressure on your member of Congress to do the right thing. Ask them if they support common-sense reforms like requiring universal background checks, or restoring the ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Tell them there’s no legislation to eliminate all guns; there’s no legislation being proposed to subvert the Second Amendment. Tell them specifically what we’re talking about — things that the majority of Americans, when they’re asked, support.

And tell them now is the time for action. That we’re not going to wait until the next Newtown or the next Aurora. We’re not going to wait until after we lose more innocent Americans on street corners all across the country. We’re not going to wait until somebody else’s father or son are murdered.

Some of the officers here today know what it’s like to look into the eyes of a parent or a grandparent, a brother or a sister who has just lost a loved one to an act of violence; to see the pain and the heartbreak from wondering why this precious life, this piece of your heart was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It changes you. You’re not the same afterwards.

And obviously whatever that experience is like is nothing compared to the experience that those families are actually going through. And it makes you realize that if there’s even one thing we can do to keep our children and our community safe, if there’s just one step we can take to prevent more families from feeling what they feel after they’ve lost a loved one, we’ve got an obligation to take that step. We’ve got an obligation to give our police officers and our communities the tools they need to make some of the same progress that’s been made here in Minneapolis.

There won’t be perfect solutions. We’re not going to save every life. But we can make a difference. And that’s our responsibility as Americans. And that’s what I’ll do every single day as long I’ve got the honor of serving as your President.

So thank you. God bless you. God bless these United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)

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U.S. President Barack Obama

Obama Gun Fighter Speech

(full transcript)

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INTRODUCTION BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:

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Before, before I begin today, let me say to the families of the innocents who were murdered 33 days ago, our heart ~ our heart goes out to you. And you show incredible courage ~ incredible courage being here. And the president and I are going to do everything in our power to honor the memory of your children and your wives with ~ with the work we take up here today.
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It’s been 33 days since the nation’s heart was broken by the horrific, senseless violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty ~ twenty beautiful first-graders gunned down in a place that’s supposed to be their second sanctuary.  And six members of the staff killed, trying to save those children. It’s literally been hard for the nation to comprehend, hard for the nation to fathom.
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And I know for the families who are here, time is not measured in days, but it’s measured in minutes, in seconds since you received that news ~ another minute without your daughter, another minute without your son, another minute without your wife, another minute without your mom.
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I want to personally thank Chris and Lynn McDonnell who lost their beautiful daughter, Grace, and the other parents who I had a chance to speak to, for ~ for their suggestions and for, again, just for their ~ the courage of all of you to be here today. I admire ~ I admire the grace and the resolve you all are showing.
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And I must say, I’ve been deeply affected by your faith as well, and the president and I are going to do everything to try to match the resolve you’ve demonstrated. No one can know for certain if this senseless act could have been prevented, but we all know we have a moral obligation ~ a moral obligation to do everything in our power to diminish the prospect that something like this could happen again.
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As the president knows, I’ve worked in this field a long time in the United States Senate, having chaired a committee that had jurisdiction over these issues of guns and crime, and having drafted the first gun violence legislation ~ the last gun violence legislation, I should say. And I have no illusions about what we’re up against ~ what we’re up against or how hard the task is in front of us. But I also have never seen the nation’s conscience so shaken by what happened at Sandy Hook.
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The world has changed and it is demanding action. It’s in this context that the president asked me to put together, along with cabinet members, a set of recommendations about how we should proceed to meet that moral obligation we have. And toward that end, the cabinet members and I sat down with 229 groups ~ not just individuals ~ representing groups, 229 groups, from law enforcement agencies to public health officials to gun officials to gun advocacy groups to ~ to sportsmen and hunters and religious leaders. And I’ve spoken with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, had extensive conversations with mayors and governors and county officials.
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And the recommendations we provided to the president on Monday call for executive actions he could sign, legislation he could call for, and long-term research that should be undertaken. They’re based on the emerging consensus we heard from all the groups with whom we spoke, including some of you who are victims of this god-awful occurrence, ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands, as well as ways to take comprehensive action to prevent violence in the first place.
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We should do as much as we can as quickly as we can, and we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Some of what you will hear from the president will happen immediately. Some will take some time. But we have begun and we are starting here today and we’re resolved to continue this fight.
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During the meetings that we held, we met with a young man who’s here today. I think Colin Goddard is here. Where are you, Colin? Colin was one of the survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre. He was in the classroom. He calls himself one of the lucky seven. And he’ll tell you, he was shot four times on that day, and he has three bullets that are still inside him.
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And when I asked Colin about what he thought we should be doing, he said that ~ he said, “I’m not here because of what happened to me. I’m here because of what happened to me keeps happening to other people, and we have to do something about it.” Colin, we will. Colin, I promise you, we will. This is our intention. We must do what we can now. And there’s no person who is more committed to acting on this moral obligation we have than the President of the United States of America.
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Ladies and gentlemen, President Barack Obama.
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(APPLAUSE)
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
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Thank you everybody. Please ~ please have a seat. Good afternoon, everybody.
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Let me begin by thanking our vice president, Joe Biden, for your dedication, Joe, to this issue, for bringing so many different voices to the table, because while reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm shouldn’t be a divisive one.
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Now, over the month since the tragedy in Newtown, we’ve heard from so many. And obviously, none have affected us more than the families of those gorgeous children and their teachers and guardians who were lost. And so we’re grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here and recognizing that we honor their memories in part by doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again.
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But we also heard from some unexpected people, in particular I started getting a lot of letters from kids. Four of them are here today, Grant Fritz, Julia Stokes , Hinna Zeha, and Teja Goode. They’re pretty representative of some of the messages I got. These are some pretty smart letters from some pretty smart young people. Hinna, a third-grader ~ you can go ahead and wave Hinna ~ that’s you. Hinna wrote, “I feel terrible for the parents who lost their children. I love my country, and I want everybody to be happy and safe.”
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And then Grant ~ go ahead and wave Grant ~ Grant said, “I think there should be some changes. We should learn from what happened at Sandy Hook. I feel really bad.” And then Julia said ~ Julia, where are you? There you go. “I’m not scared for my safety. I’m scared for others. I have four brothers and sisters ~ and I know I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of them.” And these are our kids. This is what they’re thinking about.
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And so what we should be thinking about, is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up, and do everything that they’re capable of doing. Not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.
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And that’s why last month, I asked Joe to lead an effort, along with members of my cabinet, to come up with some concrete steps we can take right now to keep our children safe, to help prevent mass shootings, to reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country… Continue reading