Lack of Response to Gun Violence Obama’s ‘Biggest Frustration’

On Tuesday, Obama blamed inaction in part on a Congress that is “terrified of the NRA.”

President Obama speaks during a live Tumblr forum in the the White House on Tuesday
National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
June 10, 2014, 2 p.m.

Above everything the pres­id­ent has en­countered in his five and a half years in of­fice — above the fisc­al-cliff show­down, the tragedy at the Benghazi con­su­late, the botched rol­lout of the Af­ford­able Care Act — he says his un­suc­cess­ful ef­fort to push gun-con­trol le­gis­la­tion through Con­gress has been the most frus­trat­ing.

“We’re the only de­veloped coun­try on Earth where this hap­pens, and it hap­pens now once a week,” Obama said in a con­ver­sa­tion hos­ted by Tumblr at the White House on Tues­day. “There’s no oth­er place like this.”

For the pres­id­ent, the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Ele­ment­ary School still looms large.

“I have been in Wash­ing­ton for a while now and most things don’t sur­prise me. But the fact that 20 6-year-olds were gunned down in the most vi­ol­ent fash­ion pos­sible and this town couldn’t do any­thing about it was stun­ning to me,” the pres­id­ent said, re­fer­ring to the 2012 school shoot­ing in New­town, Con­necti­c­ut.

He blamed in­ac­tion in part on the fact that mem­bers of Con­gress are “ter­ri­fied of the NRA,” and he called on the pub­lic to pres­sure their law­makers to im­ple­ment gun-con­trol laws. Un­til there is a “fun­da­ment­al shift in pub­lic opin­ion,” Obama said, “not that much is go­ing to change.”

To those who would call the el­ev­ated level of gun vi­ol­ence in the U.S. a men­tal-health is­sue, Obama said, “The United States does not have a mono­poly on crazy people.”

Three months after the New­town shoot­ing, Obama was already ex­press­ing frus­tra­tion at his in­ab­il­ity to push what he called “com­mon­sense” le­gis­la­tion on back­ground checks through Con­gress.

“The en­tire coun­try pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be dif­fer­ent,” the pres­id­ent said in March 2013. “Shame on us if we’ve for­got­ten. I haven’t for­got­ten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve for­got­ten.”

Wide­spread gun vi­ol­ence is “be­com­ing the norm and we take it for gran­ted in ways that, as a par­ent, are ter­ri­fy­ing for me,” Obama said Tues­day.

“We should be ashamed.”

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