Obama calls for 'common-sense gun' laws in face of mass shootings

The president expressed his disappointment with gun violence in a BBC interview hours before a shooting took place in Louisiana.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
President Barack Obama speaks to a gathering of more than 130 college-bound students and guests from across the county participating in the 2015 Beating the Odds Summit in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015.

President Obama said gun control is the one issue that’s left him feeling “most frustrated and most stymied” in an interview with the BBC on Thursday, just hours before a Louisiana gunman injured nine and killed three, including himself, at a movie theater in Lafayette.

“The United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings,” he said.  

“If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands.” 

Mr. Obama said he’ll continue to push for gun control in his remaining 18 months in office, but said the lack of progress on the issue has been “distressing.”

Last month, he criticized the political power of the National Rifle Association (NRA), an influential pro-gun lobbying group, in an interview on Marc Maron’s ‘WTF’ podcast.

“The grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong,” he told Mr. Maron. 

The president said he felt “pretty disgusted” when Congress failed to increase gun control legislation in 2012, after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. killed 20 children and six adults.

In June, a 21-year old shooter took the lives of nine parishioners at a historic African-American church in South Carolina, prompting Obama to address weak gun control and the rising cases of mass shootings.

“Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” he said in a White House statement.

Yet gun rights supporters tend to stress the opposite and claim such attacks could have been prevented if more citizens had easier access to firearms.

“Not surprising that yet another mass public shooting has taken place where guns were banned. Yet, again, the ban only ensured that the victims were vulnerable,” wrote gun advocate John Lott, referring to the church shooting. “With the exception of just two cases, all the mass public shootings since at least 1950 have occurred where guns are banned. This tragic case is no different.”

Others, including Mother Jones's Mark Follman, disagree, saying there is no evidence that gun-free zones create opportunities for violent attacks. And according to gun control advocates Everytown, only 17% of mass shootings take place in gun-free zones.

In a recently updated database of mass shootings across the country, Mother Jones magazine analyzed 62 cases from 1982-2012. It found that, of the 143 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally

Since 2012, nine more cases have been added to the database and the killings have taken place in 31 countries. 

As gun violence continues to increase, public support for gun ownership has been on the rise. In December 2014, Pew Research Center conducted a survey and found that 57 percent of Americans say gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, while 38 percent say it does more to endanger personal safety. 

Along the same lines, 52 percent said it is more important to protect the rights of gun owners while 46 percent say it is more important to control gun ownership.  

Mr. Obama’s comments following the South Carolina church shooting last month reflect on this rise of pro-gun sentiments. 

“At some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively,” he said.

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