Obama says fight for gun laws 'ought to obsess us'
By NEDRA PICKLER Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama on Sunday memorialized the
victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting by calling for a
transformation in the nation's gun laws to address an epidemic of gun
violence, saying, "There's nothing inevitable about it."
Reprising his role of the nation's consoler in chief after yet
another mass shooting, Obama said Americans should honor the victims of
last Monday's shooting by insisting on a change in gun laws. "It ought
to obsess us," Obama said.
"Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these
tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new
normal. We cannot accept this," Obama said.
He said no other advanced nation endures the kind of gun violence
seen in the United States, and blamed mass shootings in America on laws
that fail "to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous
"What's different in America is it's easy to get your hands on a
gun," he said. He acknowledged "the politics are difficult," a lesson he
learned after failing to get expanded background checks for gun buyers
through the Democratic-controlled Senate this spring.
"And that's sometimes where the resignation comes from: the sense
that our politics are frozen and that nothing will change. Well, I
cannot accept that," Obama said. "By now, though, it should be clear
that the change we need will not come from Washington, even when tragedy
strikes Washington. Change will come the only way it ever has come, and
that's from the American people."
Obama joined military leaders in eulogizing the 12 victims killed in
last Monday's shooting, speaking from the parade grounds at the Marine
Barracks, a site personally selected by Thomas Jefferson because of its
close marching distance to the Navy Yard. The memorial service came on
the first day of fall, which shone brightly in Washington, with sun
sparkling off the instruments being played by the Navy Band and the gold
dress uniform buttons worn by so many in the crowd.
The invitation-only crowd included around 4,000 mourners, with the
victims' tearful, black-clad family members directly in front of the
speakers' stage. The president and first lady met privately with the
families before the service, White House officials said.
Authorities say their loved ones' lives were taken Monday by
shotgun-wielding Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy reservist and
information technology contractor who struggled with mental illness.
Police killed Alexis in a gun battle.
By the end of the day, the Senate's chief gun control proponent,
California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, was calling on her colleagues to
restart the debate on gun control and "do more to stop this endless loss
of life." Obama didn't speak out on the issue until Saturday night,
when he urged a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner "to get
back up and go back at it" to push gun control legislation that stalled
in the Senate earlier this year. Obama proposed the legislation in the
aftermath of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that
killed 20 first graders and six staff.
Obama said it's clear from the Navy Yard shooting that the country
needs to do a better job to secure its military facilities and improve
mental health services, but also address gun laws.
"Our tears are not enough," Obama said Sunday. "Our words and our
prayers are not enough. If we really want to honor these 12 men and
women, if we really want to be a country where we can go to work and go
to school and walk our streets free from senseless violence without so
many lives being stolen by a bullet from a gun, then we're going to have
The military leaders who spoke before Obama at the memorial service,
including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, avoided any mention
of gun control. But Washington Mayor Vincent Gray spoke forcefully for
action, mentioning that 1 of the Navy Yard victims, Arthur Daniels, had
already lost his 14-year-old son to gun violence and citing a string of
mass public shootings in recent years.
"Why is it that these tragic consequences and these tragic
occurrences never seem to move us any closer to ensuring that guns don't
get into the hands of criminals or mentally unstable people?" Gray
asked. "I don't know the answer. But I do know this - that this time it
happened within the view of our Capitol dome, and I for one will not be
silenced about the fact the time has come for action."
The service ended with a bugler playing taps and singing of the Navy
hymn after a reading of the names of the fallen, who ranged in age from
46 to 73 and included civilian employees and contractors. Eight people
were also hurt, including a police officer and two others who suffered
Obama also mentioned each victim, and said memories of them will go on, along with "the sense that this has happened before."
"What wears on us, what troubles us so deeply as we gather here
today, is how this senseless violence that took place in the Navy Yard
echoes other recent tragedies," he said. "As president, I have now
grieved with five American communities ripped apart by mass violence:
Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook and now the Washington Navy Yard.
These mass shootings occur against a backdrop of daily tragedies as an
epidemic of gun violence tears apart communities across America, from
the streets of Chicago to neighborhoods not far from here."
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott, Jessica Gresko, Stacy A. Anderson and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
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