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Obama Calls For U.S. Reckoning On Guns

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Obama Calls For U.S. Reckoning On Guns

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By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — At a town hall meeting in South Carolina this year, President Barack Obama looked back on the most difficult moment of his presidency — the shooting deaths of 20 children and six educators in the Newtown school massacre in Connecticut — and expressed regret over his inability to enact stricter gun laws.

It was “the hardest day of my presidency,” he said. “And I’ve had some hard days.”

Faced Thursday with yet another major gun crime on American soil, this one at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, about 115 miles from where he spoke in March, the normally even-keeled president did not hide his anger.

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” he said. “It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”

In an eight-minute statement in which he was at turns frustrated and mournful, Obama renewed his vigor for increased limits on access to guns and, as a president nearing his final months in office, seemed to feel freer to raise the vexing political issue just hours after learning of the attack.

He blamed the shooting on someone “who wanted to inflict harm (and) had no problems getting their hands on a gun.” He said it was “particularly heartbreaking” that the victims were gunned down in a place of worship, and decried the rate of mass shootings in the U.S. as all too frequent. He quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Aides said he insisted that he address the issue in person — his 14th statement as president on a mass shooting.

The shooting in Charleston added two new elements to the president’s reaction: a personal and racial connection. Obama knew the church pastor who was killed; and the Justice Department is investigating the massacre as a hate crime — the victims were all black and the suspect is white.

As a presidential candidate, Obama had met the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who also was a state senator, and other members of the congregation. Pinckney became an Obama supporter in that tough 2008 campaign, forging a bond with him that “was strong enough to endure all the way until today,” a White House spokesman said.

Obama spoke Thursday with the mayor of Charleston to express his condolences, as did Vice President Joe Biden, who had visited with Pinckney last year at a prayer breakfast.

During Obama’s presidency, shootings — including those at the Connecticut elementary school; near a college campus in Isla Vista, California; at the Washington Navy Yard; and at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin — have brought about cries for legislative action to limit gun sales. Following Newtown, a measure in the Senate to expand background checks on would-be gun buyers fell a handful of votes short of being adopted in what became the only significant effort to enact new gun rules at the federal level.

The president, in his visit to South Carolina in March, had lamented that it seemed the carnage at Newtown would have been “enough of a motivator for us to want to do something about this. And we couldn’t get it done.”

The president has otherwise been reluctant to revisit the fight for new legislation, as intractable a fight as any in Washington, when his influence has been needed elsewhere. But, he said pointedly on Thursday, “It is in our power to do something about it.”

Still, he indicated he had little expectation that Congress would act any differently this time.

“The politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it,” he said. “At some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

The apparent racial motivation to the attack was a reminder, Obama said, of “a dark part of our history.”

The nation’s first black president has put greater attention this year on issues surrounding America’s historic struggle with race. Two days after that March visit to South Carolina, he delivered an address in Selma, Alabama, that highlighted progress since scores of blacks trying to march to Montgomery were beaten back by state troopers on Bloody Sunday there half a century ago, but he also declared that “our march is not yet finished.”

Obama has also been forced to confront tensions highlighted by a series of encounters between law enforcement and young minorities, including the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore that sparked sometimes violent demonstrations.

Obama said Thursday that while racial hatred was a threat “to our democracy and our ideals,” he was confident the reaction to this latest incident “indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome.”

He quoted King’s comments after the death of four young girls in the 1963 bombing of an Alabama church, saying: “Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.”

(c)2015 Tribune Co. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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37 Comments

  1. Dominick Vila June 19, 2015

    I doubt the latest massacre by a deranged racist will do anything to change the minds of those who believe bearing a lethal weapon, and being ready to kill, is a constitutional right bordering on the subliminal. What just happened is not new, and it is not limited to racism. Gun violence has been part of our history since before we became a nation, and it is likely to remain so for many years to come. This is who we are, a nation capable of putting a man on the Moon, lead the way in technology, in medicine, and in business acumen, but incapable of accepting the fact that violence – and misinterpreted constitutional rights – are not a solution to problem-solving, doesn’t make us safer, and should never become an excuse to justify the crimes that are being committed in the USA every single day.

    Reply
    1. TZToronto June 19, 2015

      Lindsay Graham wasted no time in diverting attention from the obvious. He claimed that this was an attack on Christianity. I’m sure he wanted to try to tie the shooter to ISIS. No, this was not an attack on Christianity. This was an attack on some black people by a crazy wannabe white supremacist. . . . It’s only a matter of time before some other gun nuts claim that this wouldn’t have happened if some of the people at the prayer meeting had been carrying. So let’s make it mandatory for all adults–and some responsible children–to carry a gun at all times. That’ll solve the mass murder problem right quick, won’t it?

      Reply
      1. itsfun June 19, 2015

        It was a hate crime on blacks, triggered by mind altering drugs. No doubt this thug has a hatred for blacks. The drugs gave him the “push, courage. or whatever it would be called” to commit this terrible crime against humanity. Lets get better control of the mind altering drugs.

        Reply
      2. Dominick Vila June 19, 2015

        The same is true for the nutcase that attacked a Sikh temple a year or so ago because he though it was a Muslim mosque. These acts are motivated by racism, intense hatred, ignorance, and insecurity. The excuses about attacks against Christianity, insanity, and the rest are just that, excuses being used to justify violence against minorities, and to make it as difficult as possible for gun control legislation to be implemented.

        Reply
        1. dtgraham June 20, 2015

          I still remember something that you posted on this topic a couple of years ago that always resonated with me for some reason. Hard to believe that I’ve been reading the National Memo since 2012.

          You said that day that maybe progressives should give up on the whole gun issue altogether. Your point was that this was a lost cause and why waste so much political capital and time on it when so many other worthwhile and winnable progressive causes were out there waiting to be tackled. It’s not that you didn’t want sensible and reasonable gun reform laws but if they’re impossible to get, then move on to something else that is doable.

          I always thought you had a point. If my memory is not correct on this or if you’ve changed your mind, let me know.

          Reply
          1. Dominick Vila June 21, 2015

            I have not changed my mind on this topic. I am appalled by our fascination with guns, with our propensity to take matters into our own hands, the conviction that an armed nation provides a sense of security and is essential to preserve our freedom, and the notion that making it difficult for criminals and the mentally ill to have access to lethal weapons is an infringement on our constitutional rights.
            I believed then, and I still believe, that change on this issue can only be achieved if we – the people – take an unambiguous stand on this issue, that is unmistakable to our politicians. At the present time, their position is based on the presumption that they are doing what the majority of Americans want. It makes no sense for a political party to take a stand on something that does not enjoy popular support. It is up to us to let them know if the current situation is acceptable to most of us, or if logic and sanity finally convinced us that our interpretation of the second Amendment does not include letting every criminal and mentally unstable person to run around armed to the teeth. I feel the same way about people feeling compelled to buy semi-automatic weapons, high capacity magazines, and open carry.
            My point then, and my point today, is that it is futile for someone like President Obama to engage in desperately needed gun law reform if most Americans don’t support it, especially when we consider all the things that need to be changed, and the need to take a strong stand on efforts to eliminate programs critical to our well being.

            Reply
      3. Allan Richardson June 20, 2015

        An NRA official has already blamed the shooting on the fact that none of the victims had a gun, AND blamed the first victim, the pastor himself, for voting in the state legislature against an “open carry in church” bill!

        People with guns debating theology and all of them convinced they are totally right and the others totally wrong … what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

        Reply
    2. itsfun June 19, 2015

      I think the problem is more mind altering drugs then guns. Seems like almost every one of the mass murders are committed by someone on mind altering drugs. These terrible things will be committed by someone making a bomb out of fertilizer or whatever like was done in Oklahoma if we outlaw guns. There will always be ways to do these horrible things. We need to win the war on drugs, not just say we have a war on drugs. What we are doing now isn’t working.

      Reply
      1. Dominick Vila June 19, 2015

        A person I know very well was diagnosed with bi-polar and dual personality disorders a few years ago. She takes heavy medication to function…and just purchased a Glock and enough ammo to wipe out a small community. Law enforcement should have access to psychiatric records before gun permits are issued, and anyone with mental disorders should not own a gun, let alone carry concealed weapons.
        That what the expansion of the Brady Act was trying to accomplish, and it was immediately demonized and turned into alleged disarmament and the end of our constitutional rights. I doubt it would have accomplished its intended purpose, simply because it did not go far enough to be effective, but if such a mild attempt to solve a major problem is turned into something evil, can you imagine how the NRA, and their paid minions in Congress, would react if something such as police officers being able to check psychiatric records before issuing a gun license was even suggested? The same goes for people with a criminal record.

        Reply
        1. itsfun June 19, 2015

          What about the huge sums of money the drug companies make with these mind altering drugs.

          Reply
      2. Dave June 19, 2015

        The Big Pharmaceutical Companies are making lot of money from pushing all of these mind altering drugs. My Mother in law works in a doctors office in western Pa, she is seeing more and more people coming in and getting put on some type of mind altering drug daily. Anymore on the TV every other commercial they are pushing some type of drug, that they say can fix anything with all kinds of side effects.

        Reply
        1. itsfun June 19, 2015

          frightening isn’t it. I always say follow the money trail when you want to know who is behind things like mind altering drugs.

          Reply
        2. Canistercook June 19, 2015

          TV would go broke without the drug companies!

          Reply
    3. 1standlastword June 19, 2015

      Why don’t we hear about people being robber, raped, murdered or kidnapped at gun clubs and in gun stores?

      Is it the laws prohibiting such crimes or some other obvious reasons?

      Reply
      1. Dominick Vila June 20, 2015

        I don’t know where you live, but I hear about being being robbed, raped, and murdered at gun point every single day where I live.
        That’s the problem, our laws and our insistence to allow criminals and the mentally ill to buy guns, and carry concealed weapons, are facilitating gun violence. I doubt expanding the Brady Act will make a huge difference, but we have to start somewhere. Ultimately we, as a society, have to come to grips with this issue and apply logic to a situation that is destroying us from within.

        Reply
        1. 2ThinkN_Do2 June 22, 2015

          The situation destroying us is not firearms . . . .

          Reply
  2. johninPCFL June 19, 2015

    He was a white supremacist carrying an illegal gun. For those who haven’t heard, it is illegal in SC for a person accused of a felony to have a gun. He was arrested in February for felony drug possession.

    Now it falls on the SC prosecutors to see whether his father may be prosecuted for giving him the gun in April. Was it a straw-man purchase? Was the gift illegal under SC law? Why would a father give a kid espousing “kill them all” views a gun?

    Reply
    1. Canistercook June 19, 2015

      Obviously the LAW is useless!

      Reply
    2. 2ThinkN_Do2 June 22, 2015

      “Why would a father give a kid espousing “kill them all” views a gun?” did you really ask that?

      Reply
  3. Jerpell June 19, 2015

    What an idiot Obama is….Firearms aren’t the problem,but its the easy route to take!

    Reply
  4. Canistercook June 19, 2015

    I don’t agree with much of what Obama says but I do agree with him on guns.
    He is right, there are too many out there in the hands of sick people!

    Reply
    1. 1standlastword June 19, 2015

      And gangsters and politicians have more wealth than honest hardworking people as well…good grief!

      Reply
    2. 2ThinkN_Do2 June 22, 2015

      So how are you going to ensure that whackos, racists, and terrorists do not get guns? Regulating everyday people is not the answer. How do rebels in foreign countries get guns? Have we been able to stop them?

      Reply
    3. Ruby Rott June 26, 2015

      Any device-gun, car, hammer, kitchen knife, baseball bat– is potentially dangerous in the hands of a “sick” person. So, do you ban the device, which does nothing to fix the sicko? Do you instead work on the person who misuses common, ubiquitous items ? As long as ethics and morality continually decline, as long as society thinks a drug will fix the problem, as long as people are not held accountable for their actions, more sicko’s will surface. Sometimes life is harsh and unfair. It does no good to hide that fact. Some people have no right to mingle in the general public and need to be confined, regardless of what social babble theory is the flavor of the day.

      Reply
  5. 1standlastword June 19, 2015

    Mr. Obama. Demonstrate to use how much you personally believe in politics and after you’re term in office go back to Chi Town without the cover of your taxpayer provided security guard (s).

    Sense the stricter laws are good for the goose…they must be good for the gander…yes??!!

    Reply
  6. Ruby Rott June 20, 2015

    2/3 of the gun deaths are suicides. That’s roughly 22,000/year. About 11,000 gun deaths/year are homicides. Automobiles kill about 33,000 people per year. So, I have to wonder why the those 11,000 homicides get all the indignant, emotionally wrought attention instead of the 44,000 suicide or auto death victims.

    Reply
    1. Dominick Vila June 22, 2015

      Accidents are just that, accidents. Suicides are the result of a decision made by a human being to terminate his/her life. Homicides are deliberate acts committed by criminals, the mentally ill, the prejudiced, or people distraught by emotion who instead of ending their miserable lives decide to take someone else life.
      There are two issues associated with what happened in Charleston. (1) The intense hatred demonstrated by a young man, who may be afflicted by mental illness, who declared after entering a Church that he was there to kill black people. (2) The availability of lethal weapons to anybody interested in buying one, regardless of whether or not the purchaser has a criminal record or is mentally ill and taking strong medication to function.
      President Obama has not proposed disarmament. He proposed expanding Reagan’s Brady Act to make it more difficult for criminals and the mentally ill to buy a gun. I don’t think such legislation would preclude anyone from buying a lethal weapon, but it is a step in the right direction. What does not help, is the Republican refusal to support that legislation, which by default means they support the right of criminals and mentally ill people to kill innocent Americans.

      Reply
      1. Ruby Rott June 25, 2015

        The kicker is defining mentally ill and criminals. You aren’t a criminal until convicted through the legal process. Mental illness is about as fuzzy a term as can be dreamed up. You sink into a depressive, sometimes suicidal, mindset after your beloved spouse of 30 years dies in a car crash caused by an alcoholic with multiple DUI convictions. The medical profession drowns the poor sod with antidepressants/ antipsychotic/mental health counseling to help. So, you think the bereaved spouse should be declared mentally ill and be subject to having his rights to own a gun revoked? Oh, you say, it will only be temporary until he returns to normal. But that history of mental illness will be forever on his record, regardless of the cause, if for no other reason than he received a prescription for a certain kind of drug. It will be used against him sometime in the future, count on it. You don’t care about the habitual drunk that society allows to run amuck until he finally kills someone, rather than revoke his privilege to own a deadly weapon, aka a car? The suicides are not going to stop by banning guns. The public outcry is about sensational gun deaths, heavily promoted by the media-not the vastly larger number of suicides caused by guns; not the vast slaughter by other devices like cars. Back out the number of gun deaths committed during a crime (think the drugs, gangs) and the number of gun deaths is not very impressive. Further, it is handguns that are the main weapon of choice, not long guns. The hoopla is over what color or style a gun isnonsense–pure irrational emotionalism. We don’t even want to think of tackling the food industry for contributing to the hundreds of thousands that die from poor diet. Or the educational system for de-emphasizing physical fitness–even though obesity is a major problem for our youth and a major drain of resources in our medical system. That’s a few more hundred of thousands of unnecessary deaths, by the way.

        Reply
        1. Dominick Vila June 25, 2015

          The public outcry about gun violence is motivated by the fact that guns are the easiest lethal weapon to buy in the USA, because it can be used as an instrument to carry out a massacre, and because it is difficult for the victims to escape.
          I agree with you on the issue of mental illness. Not because it is not a problem or concern, but because it is very difficult to deal with and find an effective way to preclude mentally ill people from buying and using a gun. Dealing with people with a criminal record is somewhat easier, although consider how easy it is to buy a gun in the USA, no law will prevent a person with a criminal record from buying and using a gun.
          The challenge for us is to find a way to at least mitigate the incidence of gun violence in America.

          Reply
          1. Ruby Rott June 25, 2015

            I’ll state in more plainly: Gun violence is highly overrated. Death by automobiles, far exceeds that done by gun violence. The impact of “gun violence” is further diminished as 2/3 of gun deaths are suicides, which are done without much fanfare or public anguish. Of the remaining 11, 000 gun deaths , about 80% are attributable to gangs and those involved in criminal activity. The “high” gun death stats are uniquely part of the large metropolitan areas, not America as a whole. I have lived in my rural town for 20 years. The number on homicides during that period can be counted on one hand with fingers left over. As with any emotionally charged issue, fact and reason become irrelevant.

            Reply
          2. NoNumberNow June 27, 2015

            Actually, your response typifies preconceived notions that plague humans. A gun is not the easiest lethal weapon to buy in the USA. But little do we think about the definition of lethal weapon. Examples of lethal weapons: Knives and baseball bats require no permits. Cars are expensive, but easily obtainable. Prescription and illegal drugs are easily obtainable. Handguns are the dominant weapon used for homicides. But the majority of homicides are committed during criminal activity, rather than some random shooting of an innocent by stander. Those ghastly mass murders, rile the public beyond reason. Banning guns, of which there are hundreds of millions, is a pipe dream. One only has to look at the colossal failure of Prohibition. Even with a Constitutional amendment banning alcoholic beverages failed. The problem isn’t the tool, it is the tool user. And,that, is the crux to the problem: How do you keep people from doing bad things?

            Reply
          3. Dominick Vila June 27, 2015

            The problem is, obviously, the person determined to harm others, but since we cannot ban people, the only recourse is to make sure they don’t have the tools they need to carry out massacres. We can run away from a person wielding a knife or a baseball bat, it is not easy to run away from a person holding an AK47 with enough magazines to exterminate a small village. The challenge is to find a way to at least mitigate the incidence of gun violence in the USA without infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens.

            Reply
          4. NoNumberNow June 28, 2015

            The highest rates of homicides are in metropolitan areas where poverty,
            unemployment, illegal drug activity are also the highest. Long
            guns account for very, very few of homicides in the USA, about 600 to
            700. This is the same number of homicides caused by people using no
            weapon except hands, fists, feet.. But the times long guns are used are
            spectacular–mass killings. This clouds the real problem: People. As
            long as we have a society that preaches excessive tolerance, does not
            hold individuals responsible for their actions, does not have strong
            moral/ethic standards. abuse such as homicides will continue. The deaths and destruction from the illegal drug trade far exceeds that caused by guns. Yet because so many people of all socioeconomic levels enjoy use of these drugs, the fact that children and young adults have little understanding of the detrimental effects of use, the illegal drug trade, gang violence ( a big source of gun deaths btw) continue unabated.

            Reply
          5. Dominick Vila June 28, 2015

            I agree that homicides are committed by people, rather than the inanimate tools that facilitates them, and that ours is a violent society, but there suggesting that ours is a tolerant society when we have the highest prison population in the world, and the second highest incarceration rate after the Seychelles, misses the point.

            Reply
          6. Ran_dum_Thot June 28, 2015

            If young, white males are the dominant mass slayer, perhaps that is the
            issue that should be tackled. Include the parents that seem oblivious
            to their little darlings problems, who seem to think they have no
            obligation to protect society from the monsters they have created.

            Reply
    2. NoNumberNow June 26, 2015

      What is so overlooked is that 60 % of the gun homicides are in cities with more than 100,000 people. About 28% of the population lives in these cities. Move to small town America and homicide rates are much, much lower. The attempt to correlate lack of gun control to increased gun death fails in that poverty and unemployment levels also correlate directly with gun homicides. So, the remaining 72% of Americans aren’t seeing or experiencing gun violence as a problem, except for the emotionally impacting mass shootings. It’s rather like flying in an airplane. Air travel is supposed to be the safest way to travel. But when a plane crashes it has a terrifically negative impact on that fact.

      Reply
  7. 2ThinkN_Do2 June 22, 2015

    Eventually only the wealthy, powerful, corrupt and criminals will have firearms; what a nice place it will be to live . . . . : (

    Reply

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