President Barack Obama answers a question during a Tumblr forum, moderated by Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp, left, on June 1, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.
President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that his biggest frustration so far is society’s unwillingness “to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage.”
“We’re the only developed country on the earth where this happens,” he said.
“Right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.”
Obama was asked what could be done about school violence toward the end of a Tumblr interview about college affordability with the website’s founder, David Karp. The question came from a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who as a resident assistant last year had overseen George Chen, avictim in a May mass shooting.
Karp also referenced Tuesday’s shooting at Reynolds High School and Thursday’s shooting at Seattle Pacific University, which killed Paul Lee, a Westview High School graduate.
Obama’s response in full:
“People often ask me how’s it been being president. What are my proudest (moments), and biggest disappointments? I’ve got two and a half years left. 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. We’re the only developed country on the earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week. and it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this.
A couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown. And Australia just said, ‘Well, that’s it, we’re not seeing that again,’ and basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws and they haven’t had a mass shooting since.
Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country on earth that would put up with this. Now, we have a different tradition. We have a we have a Second Amendment. We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights.
But the idea that we couldn’t even get a background check bill in — to make sure that if you buy a weapon, you actually have to go through a fairly rigorous process so we know who you are, so that you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapons — makes no sense.
I don’t know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who’d been killed at Santa Barbara. As a father myself, I could not understand the pain he must be going through, just the primal scream that he gave out. Why aren’t we doing something about this?
I will tell you, I’ve been in Washington for a while now, and most things don’t surprise me. 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? It was stunning to me. The question then becomes, what can we do about it?
The only thing that’s going to change is public opinion. If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.
I’ve initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules and the laws. The bottom line is that we don’t have all the tools we need right now to really to make as big of a dent as we need to.
Most members of Congress — and to some extent this is bipartisan — are terrified of the NRA. The combination of the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes on local elections and Congressional elections. So if you’re running for office right now, that’s where you’re feeling the heat.
People on the other side might be generally favorable towards things like backgrounds checks and other common sense rules, but they’re not as motivated. That doesn’t end up being the issues that a lot of you vote on.
Until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion when people say ‘Enough, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, this isn’t the price we should be paying for our freedom,’ that we can have respect for the Second Amendment and responsible gunowners and sportsmen and hunters can have the ability to possess weapons, but that we’re gonna put some common sense rules in place that make a dent at least in what’s happening, until that is not just the majority of you — because that is already the majority of you, even the majority of gun owners believe that — until that’s a view that people feel passionately about and are willing to go after folks who don’t vote reflecting those values, until that happens, sadly, not that much is going to change.
A lot of people will say this is a mental health problem. It’s not a gun problem. The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis, and yet, we kill each in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else. Well, what’s the difference? The difference is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses, and that’s sort of par for the course.
The country has to do some soul searching about this.
This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me. And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions. But right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.”