Five days after a gunman killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, President Obama spoke at length about the need for government action to reduce gun violence, including hinting at a return to the assault weapons ban and tightening restrictions on gun purchases.
On Capitol Hill, gun control has been a non-starter in the wake of the Colorado shooting. Mitt Romney said in an interview Wednesday that he didn’t see the need for new firearms regulations following the tragedy.
Obama distinguished himself Wednesday in a speech before the National Urban League convention in New Orleans. The president tied Aurora shooting and other high-profile mass shootings in recent years to continuing urban gun violence and said it was time to take greater legislative steps to curb the problem.
“I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms,” Obama said. “But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals — that they belong on the battlefields of war and not on the streets of our cities.”
Obama said it should be harder for some buyers to find guns legally.
“I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons. We should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller. Many mentally unbalanced individuals should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily,” he said. “These steps shouldn’t be controversial they should be common sense.”
Obama acknowledged that any push for new gun control measures would face a steep climb.
“[S]teps to reduce violence have been met with opposition in Congress,” he said. “It’s been true for some time, particularly when it touches on the issue of guns.”
Obama said his administration has already acted to curb gun violence in the wake of the Tucson shooting that left six dead and gravely injured former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).
“What I said in the wake of Tucson was that we were going to stay on this persistently. So we’ve been able to take some actions on our own, recognizing that it’s not always easy to get things through Congress these days,” Obama said.
He said his administration has been able to make background checks that precede a gun purchase “more through and more complete,” and said his administration has been in “the trenches” with local law enforcement and other groups to reduce gun violence in cities.
The problem is larger than just the mass shootings that dominate the headlines, Obama said, tying events in Aurora and Littleton, Colo., and at Virginia Tech to the “dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta.”
Read Obama’s full remarks about guns from the Urban League speech here.