NEW ORLEANS, La. – Speaking to the National Urban League convention Wednesday night, President Barack Obama spoke at length about gun violence for the first time since the deadly shooting in Aurora, Colo.
The president said more must be done to keep weapons from criminals and the mentally unstable, vowing to do more but offering few specifics on how to prevent such occurrences under existing law. He spoke for six minutes, mourning the victims of high-profile shootings but also what he called the daily, “less publicized acts of violence.”
“When there's extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy, there's always an outcry immediately after for action,” Obama said to the crowd of 3,700. “Too often those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.”
Obama criticized Congress for opposing other measures to reduce violence, “particularly when it touches on the issue of guns,” and offered broad strokes of what he would do differently in the future.
He said he would continue to work with members of both parties and also community leaders to arrive “at a consensus around violence reduction, not just of gun violence but violence at every level.”
One point of common ground, the president said, would be ensuring that criminals and mentally unstable individuals like Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people in Tucson, are unable to purchase firearms.
“I think a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals,” he said.
“I believe the majority of gun owners agree we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons," the president said. "That we should check out a person’s criminal record before they can check out at a gun store. That a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily.”
That last remark, a clear reference to the mentally unstable individuals responsible for the most recent high-profile massacres, received particularly loud applause from the audience.