Barack Obama

Obama renews call for gun control after Washington Navy Yard shooting

President 'cannot accept' no change but gun reform still faces Senate opposition

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 9:06pm

US President Barack Obama has paid tribute to the victims of last week's Washington Navy Yard shooting by saying the tragedy should spur action to combat an epidemic of gun violence. "There's nothing inevitable about it," he said.

Reprising his role of the nation's consoler-in-chief after yet another mass shooting, Obama said on Sunday that Americans should honour 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 on laws that fail "to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people".

"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 eulogising the 12 victims killed in the shooting, speaking from the parade grounds at the Marine Barracks.

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 the families privately before the service, White House officials said.

Authorities say their loved ones' lives were taken by shotgun-wielding Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former navy reservist 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, 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 at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner, when he urged people "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, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six staff members.

But Senator Joe Manchin, the co-author of the bill to expand background checks to more gun purchasers, acknowledged the bill remains stalled in the Senate. The Democratic senator told CBS he has no intention of renewing his effort to pass the measure in light of the Navy Yard shootings unless he sees movement on the part of the opponents of the bill.

The opposition to tighter gun control legislation has been led by the National Rifle Association, the influential gun-rights lobbying group.