President Obama’s Speech On Gun Control Bill Defeat (Transcript)

"Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it. And so do the American people."

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Yuri Gripas / REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives with Vice President Joe Biden to deliver a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington April 17, 2013.

Remarks provided by the White House Press Office

THE PRESIDENT:  A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies — including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who’s here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers –- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence.

Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders –- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children.  And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it.  They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.

By now, it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun.  We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness.  Ninety percent of Americans support that idea.  Most Americans think that’s already the law.

And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea.  But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.

A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks.  But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.

I’m going to speak plainly and honestly about what’s happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen. We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with “A” grades from the NRA — come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks.  And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that.  That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.

As they said, nobody could honestly claim that the package they put together infringed on our Second Amendment rights.  All it did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet.  So 60 percent of guns are already purchased through a background check system; this would have covered a lot of the guns that are currently outside that system.

Their legislation showed respect for gun owners, and it showed respect for the victims of gun violence.  And Gabby Giffords, by the way, is both — she’s a gun owner and a victim of gun violence.  She is a Westerner and a moderate.  And she supports these background checks.

In fact, even the NRA used to support expanded background checks.  The current leader of the NRA used to support these background checks.  So while this compromise didn’t contain everything I wanted or everything that these families wanted, it did represent progress.  It represented moderation and common sense.  That’s why 90 percent of the American people supported it.

But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill.  They claimed that it would create some sort of “big brother” gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite.  This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry.  Plain and simple, right there in the text.  But that didn’t matter.

And unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators.  And I talked to several of these senators over the past few weeks, and they’re all good people.  I know all of them were shocked by tragedies like Newtown.  And I also understand that they come from states that are strongly pro-gun. And I have consistently said that there are regional differences when it comes to guns, and that both sides have to listen to each other.

But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun.  There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this.  It came down to politics — the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections.  They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment.

And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too.  And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse — any excuse — to vote “no.”

One common argument I heard was that this legislation wouldn’t prevent all future massacres.  And that’s true.  As I said from the start, no single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil.  We learned that tragically just two days ago.  But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand — if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try.

And this legislation met that test.  And too many senators failed theirs.

I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory.  And my question is, a victory for who?  A victory for what?  All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check.  That didn’t make our kids safer.  Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done?  It begs the question, who are we here to represent?

I’ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced.  “A prop,” somebody called them.  “Emotional blackmail,” some outlet said.  Are they serious?  Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don’t have a right to weigh in on this issue?  Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?

So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.

But this effort is not over.  I want to make it clear to the American people we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence, so long as the American people don’t give up on it.  Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities.  We’re going to address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background check system.  We’re going to give law enforcement more information about lost and stolen guns so it can do its job.  We’re going to help to put in place emergency plans to protect our children in their schools.

But we can do more if Congress gets its act together.  And if this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters.

To all the people who supported this legislation — law enforcement and responsible gun owners, Democrats and Republicans, urban moms, rural hunters, whoever you are — you need to let your representatives in Congress know that you are disappointed, and that if they don’t act this time, you will remember come election time.

To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this legislation, you need to let your leadership and lobbyists in Washington know they didn’t represent your views on this one.

The point is those who care deeply about preventing more and more gun violence will have to be as passionate, and as organized, and as vocal as those who blocked these common-sense steps to help keep our kids safe.  Ultimately, you outnumber those who argued the other way.  But they’re better organized.  They’re better financed.  They’ve been at it longer.  And they make sure to stay focused on this one issue during election time. And that’s the reason why you can have something that 90 percent of Americans support and you can’t get it through the Senate or the House of Representatives.

So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this.  And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington.  And that requires strength, and it requires persistence.

And that’s the one thing that these families should have inspired in all of us.  I still don’t know how they have been able to muster up the strength to do what they’ve doing over the last several weeks, last several months.

And I see this as just round one.  When Newtown happened, I met with these families and I spoke to the community, and I said, something must be different right now.  We’re going to have to change.  That’s what the whole country said.  Everybody talked about how we were going to change something to make sure this didn’t happen again, just like everybody talked about how we needed to do something after Aurora.  Everybody talked about we needed change something after Tucson.

And I’m assuming that the emotions that we’ve all felt since Newtown, the emotions that we’ve all felt since Tucson and Aurora and Chicago — the pain we share with these families and families all across the country who’ve lost a loved one to gun violence — I’m assuming that’s not a temporary thing.  I’m assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words.

I believe we’re going to be able to get this done.  Sooner or later, we are going to get this right.  The memories of these children demand it.  And so do the American people.

Thank you very much, everybody.

78 comments
GradyLouisRandlemanJr.
GradyLouisRandlemanJr.

To My President Mr. Obama; Dear sir i voted for you an will stand by you sir,but with just this one thing please Sir! What give you or any one the right to take away from Good Americans as my self an others the right that our FATHER"S  before You me an many others,the amendments that where set in place so we would never be unequal to any one Friend or foe, Guns, an what have you. This is an out rage, "BUT", I can understand that many need to be looked over by some one or tested on where or not there crews are all tight, (Had to put some funny in there to break the ice) By lets say a shrink, My DI . But to tell me an others that are sound they can not have this type of fire arm or so much ammo, when Police can an FBI, CIA, an a host of others working for this great USA. Well sir I must be honest to you Sir. THAT IS WRONG AN YOU SIR SHOULD RETHINK THIS THIS GUN THING! The time the Mother has a kid that has a problem in the head an she teaches him at home an the whole town ,or city know that he has this problem, an on top of it she takes him to the range an shows about guns! Well you tell it is the kids fault?? WRONG it was the whole city's FAULT BECAUSE THEY ALL KNEW AN THE WRITING WAS ON THE WALL THE WHOLE TIME, Sir! Yes parents need to be looked over because that is where it does come from. I love you as My President an always will SIR! But I will stand away from you if you think you are going to take what I an many others have earned, an think you are going say well that is my will an it will be done! Then Sir I feel real sorry for you to think one person can snap there fingers an that it . You are only human an I hope you will see, RETHINKING  this over with others that do like it an don't like your decision. OUR FATHERS GAVE US GOOD AMERICANS THAT RIGHT, YOU WILL NEVER TAKE THAT FROM THE GOOD AMERICANS, most Important US THAT FOUGHT WHEN WE KNEW IT WAS WRONG! Think about THAT!  Thank yu Mr. Obama My President of The United States Of America!   

ErnieDeaver
ErnieDeaver

How STUPID would a person have to be,in order to attempt to purchase a firearm from somewhere that involves a background check.........(When they have a criminal record that would prevent them from buying the gun?) I guess my next question would be ..........how effective are background checks in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals who can't own a fire arm?? If someone would dare say "well...........the background checks are very effective!!" Then again,I would have to ask"How stupid can a criminal get"? I mean it's not like,someone who has a count of armed robbery is actually going to waltz on in to a gun shop & attempt to purchase a gun? Or is it?

thughesj
thughesj

Please that think banding guns is the answer is stupid. Look at history and see what happens when governments band guns next comes the mass killings, reeducation camps, forced slavery. Search the Internet for mass graves, coffin, and reeducation camps. Why do we need these facilities and items? Who are they for? Why isnt the main stream news taking about these issues? Gun control is being used to distract the general public while they prepare for your death. NATO/UN is driving this one world order, and in their plan they are planning to kill off 6.5 billion people worldwide. If you have been given an invitation you are on the list of people that will die. It doesn't matter what is you political views. Has anyone ever wondered why none of the bodies of those kids were ever shown on the nightly news? The solution is to prevent people with felonies from getting their hands on guns and if they get caught with guns they should be shot by law enforcement, that way they cannot comment crimes or break the law anymore. Too many people think they are above the law. These people need to be forced to follow the law. Same goes for people involved in the trafficking and selling of illegal drugs. This world would be a much better place with these types of people. People need to learn to love thu neighbor and stop being hateful. People now days only care about drugs, drinking sex, and material things - guns dont kill people do!!. 

Nikhil
Nikhil

US was the country i used to look up to...i used to wonder when my country would ever come close to being like it. now though i wonder how foolish u people are. have u even looked around before blabbering that more strict laws wouldnt work?

countries which have these laws dont seem to have tragedies like the one in newton town..simply because its so difficult to get a license so people are actually safer. you guys are being manipulated by stupid organisations like the NRA...my question to u americans...how stupid are u guys actually...the evidence is out there..better laws means less tragedies..yes it wont prevent everyone of em bt atleast it will reduce it..if in the face of so blatant proof like every other country is providing u n u sti lhave the guts to say that more strict rules wudnt work...then you are absolute idiots

fyreangel10
fyreangel10

You know, I'm a pretty damn liberal democrat. However, I am glad that the bill didn't pass. There is absolutely no evidence that this bill will prevent any more tragedies, it will only make it more difficult for upstanding citizens to defend themselves from people who do not get guns through the legal route. Oh, you're a gang member with assault charges and schizophrenia? You're not supposed to have a gun! Meanwhile the nurse being raped doesn't have a gun because she happened to be in counseling freshman year of high school. These gun laws aren't going to work.

JR1304
JR1304

Funny how the President wins and its a great thing for the country.  But when he loses well it suddenly becomes a travesty of monumental proportions.  Sounds like sour grapes from someone whos never been told NO!

CodyDavis
CodyDavis

Hell yes shoot that out of the water i hope that bill never flys good luck with that mr obama you will need it

ChyanneCathryn
ChyanneCathryn

SO happy they didn't get this passed! We need to stay strong when it comes to our constitutional rights and not be blindsighted by what the government wants us to think. Free thinkers helped keep this bill from being passed and thank goodness! I thank the minority in the senate that kept this  from passing. I feel that if the majority of people had wanted this reform that the opposing senate would have wanted to pass the bill to keep their voters and support. Keep on Keepin on free thinkers!! 

JohnnieTillery-Eiland
JohnnieTillery-Eiland

I am sick of people who would rather see folks die than to support the good sound policies our wonderful president recommends. These sorry people are doing all of this crazy junk due to their racist attitudes. These narrowed minded people just want President Obama to fail. Well most of the people like him. So you terrible people just need to get over it. You all need to pray to God so He can help you overcome your bias.   

MaidInAmerica
MaidInAmerica

So 90% of the American public opposed Obamacare, but he got it pushed through with closed-door meetings, back-room deals (that had to be rescinded.  I'm sure Nebraska, LA, and others are still seething about that), and bussing in nearly dead senators from the hospital to vote.  I don't know where he got this figure of 90% of Americans supported his gun bill -- I haven't seen that reflected anywhere -- but he lost.  How can that be?

Asteroidjesus
Asteroidjesus

Despite what the speech above may overtly say the President is using these victims, all be it willingly on the victims part. If you're not using them to gain Political leverage why have them up there at all?

Additionally, there have already been several cases in which background checks, specifically to mental capacity have resulted in wrongful confiscation of firearms, recently one in NY and another in Colorado Springs for inept Law Enforcement regarding open carry.

There are more than enough Americans who want to defend their own homeland, reinstate a Militia under the supervision of Local Law Agencies and utilize our Second Amendment instead of stifling it.

ponderlicious
ponderlicious

The problem is the criminally minded don't follow laws, so more laws only work with those who will follow them. The answer is never more laws. You can't legislate evil to go away. You can't legislate a safe world. Passing more laws is all our government knows to do. They want to pass laws and make criminals out of people who weren't one the day before.

The US is only 4% of the world's population, but has 25% of all those incarcerated. You have to realize that our government is not proactive, but only reactive. Even the lame laws that they want to pass are after the fact. You have to realize that you are on your own and can't expect the government to do anything to protect. The reality is there are too many guns in circulation, and if someone wants to get one, they will. And worse now, if they can't get a gun, they might just make a bomb instead. Like I said, you can't legislate a safe world. You have to do what you can to protect you and your family, and don't count on anything from the government, except more laws that will give the government yet another excuse to fine, tax, or incarcerate you.

SeriousSam
SeriousSam

"I would consider moving to Canada. They are saner, smarter, and more morally sound than we seem to be right now."

Then move to Canada bitch!!!! 


Mr. Sam

LeaFredericksFrey
LeaFredericksFrey

I am not an angry person by nature, but at this moment I am filled with disgust, embarrassment, and anger over our government. When the Senate today refused to pass a requirement for a simple background check to buy a gun, I fear for our future as an enlightened country. Our senators are so beholden to the NRA which contributes to their campaigns, that they, like stupid sheep, vote their wishes. Shame on all of them - the NRA, the U S Senators, and the powerful gun lobby which controls us all. If I were younger and had no family here, I would consider moving to Canada. They are saner, smarter, and more morally sound than we seem to be right now.    Lea Fredericks Frey