In his most extensive comments on gun control since the tragic Aurora theater shooting, President Obama called for tighter gun control measures in a speech at the Urban League in New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Asserting that he supports a Second Amendment right to bear arms, Obama took a harder stance on assault weapons and background checks:
OBAMA: I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation -– that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.
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 battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. These steps shouldn’t be controversial. They should be common sense.
Noting that lax gun control is only one part of the problem, Obama also touched on the historic new agreement between the New Orleans police department and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to reduce crime and corruption, as well as government programs in Boston, Chicago, and Detroit meant to steer young people away from gangs and street violence.
Obama’s strong support for gun control has lapsed in recent years. As a state senator, Obama supported banning all forms of semiautomatic weapons and tighter state restrictions on firearms, and in the U.S. Senate voted against a law protecting firearms makers and dealers from lawsuits over misuse of their products. But during his presidency, Obama has thus far declined to advance the gun restrictions he touted in his campaign.
In his speech Wednesday night, Obama acknowledged that it has been difficult to get stricter gun control laws through Congress; the NRA and other gun rights lobbyists outspent gun control advocates 17 to 1 in Washington just last year. But a new poll found that gun-owning Americans, including NRA members, overwhelmingly support gun control regulations, with 87 percent of NRA members agreeing that “support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing that Obama was speaking of actions “short of legislation and short of gun laws that can reduce violence,” emphasizing that the president is “very mindful of the need when it comes to legislation that we protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”