Invoking the spree-shooter massacre at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama, speaking on the NBC’s “Meet the Press” broadcast Dec. 30 in the White House Blue Room, affirmed his commitment to expand federal restrictions on gun rights.
“You know, I think anybody, who was up in Newtown, talked to the parents, who talked to the families—um, understands that something fundamental in America has to change,” said the president to David Gregory, the program’s host, who interviewed the president the day before the broadcast.
Gregory asked Obama if he had the political stomach for the tumult any attempt to restrict gun rights would bring him and the country.
The president said, “This is something that, um, you know, that was the worst day of my presidency, and ah, and it’s not something I want to see repeated,” he said.
Gregory prompted the president, “It hit close to home?”
“Absolutely,” he said.
There can be fundamental change, if Americans deeply contemplate the problem of gun violence, Obama said.
“Um, and all of us have to do some soul-searching, including me as president that we allow a situation in which, ah, 20 precious, small children are getting gunned down in a classroom, and, y’know, I’ve been very clear, ah, that y’know, assault rifle ban, banning these high-capacity clips, background checks, that there are set of issues that I have historically supported and will continue to support,” the president said.
The president said, “I think there are a vast majority of responsible gun owners out there, who recognize we can’t have a situation, which somebody with severe psychological problems is able to get the kind of high-capacity weapons that, ah, he, this individual in, ah, Newtown obtained, ah, and gunned down our kids, and yes it’s gonna be hard.”
The host brought up to the president the idea of armed security at schools put forward by the National Rifle Association in response to the Dec. 17 school shooting.
The NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre announced Dec. 21 that former Arkansas Republican congressman W. Asa Hutchinson would lead the development of a “National School Shield Emergency Response Program” to serve as a model for schools looking for a comprehensive solution, including the implementation of armed guards.
“So we have an armed guard at every school in the country? That is what the NRA believes,” Gregory said. “They told me last week: That could work.”
Obama said he was not a fan of the NRA plan.
“You know, I am not going to pre-judge the recommendations given to me,” he said.
“I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools,” he said. “Ah, and I think, the vast majority of the American people that that somehow is going to solve our problem–and, look, here, here’s the bottom line: We’re not going to get this done unless the American people decide it’s important,” he said.
Watch a video of President Barack Obama’s “Meet the Press” comments on his push to restrict gun rights:
“This is not going to be simply a matter of me spending political capital,” he said.
Gregory pressed him again, “But, can you get it done? The politics is the question,” he said.
The president stepped over the end of the host’s last word and took up that theme himself.
“And so, the question is, ah, are we going to be able to a national conversation and move something through Congress,” he said.
Obama announced Dec. 19 that Vice-President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who led the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that included the ban on so-called “assault weapons,” would lead a White House working group that he charged with crafting initiatives designed to combat gun violence.
“I’d like to get it done in the first year. I will put forward very specific proposal based on the recommendations that Joe Biden’s task force is putting together as well speak, ah, so this is not something I will be putting off,” he said.
There will be opposition from the National Rifle Association to any new gun control legislation, the host said. “The NRA says it’ just not going to work, it didn’t work before and it’s not going to work now.”
The president continued to plead his brief. “You know, my response is that something has to work, and so, it is not enough for us to say this is too hard, so weren’t not going to try—so, what I intend to do is I am going to call all of the stakeholders together—I will meet with the Republicans, I will meet with the Democrats, I will talk to anybody.”
“One of the things you learn, and now been in the office for four years, is, you know, that old adage of Abraham Lincoln: ‘That, ah, with public opinion there is nothing you can’t do and without public opinion there is very little you can get done in this town,’” he said.
The president said he sent he will submit a package to Congress and he will back it with the full weight of his office. “I’m going to be making an argument to the American people, about why this is important and why we have to do everything we can to make sure that something like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary does not happen again.”
Despite his vow to fight for gun control, the president left himself the out that if he fails, it is the will of the American people.
“Ultimately, the way this is going to happen is because the American people say, ‘That’s right, we are willing to make different choices for the country and we support those in Congress, who are willing take those actions’” he said.
“Will there be resistance? Absolutely,” he said.
“There will be resistance, and the question then becomes, well, whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes, where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then drift away,” he said.
“It certainly, ah, won’t feel like that to me.”