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Obama Laments Lack of Public "Passion" for Gun Control

Obama Laments Lack of Public "Passion" for Gun Control

By Alexis Simendinger - June 11, 2014

President Obama said the public’s “passion” and fury are missing when it comes to failed efforts to enact new gun controls and background checks in response to mass shootings.

He called it his “biggest frustration” as president, and he asked the public to do some soul-searching about America’s deadly trend.  Obama also conceded that his own push for restrictions last year, with Vice President Biden spearheading the effort, fell flat in Congress.

The president predicted that without demands from communities, parents, students, campuses and those impacted by past tragedies, lawmakers will not budge, even as the number of mass shootings in the United States continues to rise.

On average since the Sandy Hook tragedy, one school shooting a week has occurred in the United States for at least a year and a half, according to data compiled by a group known as Everytown for Gun Safety and translated into a map by the Washington Post.

Obama’s remarks about gun rights and gun restrictions – his most expansive discussion since the Senate defeated administration-backed legislationcame as a student and teacher in Oregon died Tuesday following another high school shooting.

“My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of … people who …can do just unbelievable damage,” Obama said during a White House Q&A session with Tumblr founder David Karp and a predominantly young online audience that had submitted written questions in advance.

“We're the only developed country on earth where this happens,” the president lamented. “And it happens now once a week. And it a one-day story. There's no place else like this.”

On June 5, a man died and two people were injured during a shooting at Seattle Pacific University. On May 23, a young gunman killed six people and wounded seven others near a college campus in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The president blamed the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers’ lobby for blocking efforts on Capitol Hill to expand existing background checks on gun purchases and restrictions on assault weapons. Without a protest from the public, lawmakers will not act, Obama said.

“Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There's no advanced, developed country on earth that would put up with this,” he said.

Sounding frustrated and dispirited, the president called himself a Second Amendment supporter. But the American people have to sway Congress if lawmakers are to consider legislation again one day – measures he said could help curb mass shootings.

“I will tell you, I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don't surprise me,” Obama said.  “The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible [in Newtown, Conn.], and this town couldn't do anything about it was stunning to me. And so the question then becomes, what can we do about it?”

The president argued that bipartisan political fear on Capitol Hill, especially in a midterm election year, is to blame for the NRA’s success in halting House and Senate momentum.

“Most members of Congress -- and I have to say to some degree this is bipartisan -- are terrified of the NRA,” he said. “The combination of the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes in local elections and congressional elections. And so if you're running for office right now, that's where you feel the heat.”

The president addressed in passing the public’s unresolved debate about whether mental illness and emotional disturbance may be more to blame for mass killings than guns -- many of which were purchased legally before being used in crimes. He argued that comparing the United States with other countries indicates that access to guns and ammunition makes a difference.

This country is not the only one “that has psychosis,” he said, “and yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else.”

Worried that campus and school shootings are becoming accepted as a “new norm,” Obama argued that the trend “is not normal.”

The president vowed to press his case during his remaining time in office, but in casting gun restrictions as a battle between the American public and the NRA, he also suggested the fight has to be outside Washington.

“This isn't the price we should be paying for our freedom,” he said.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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