Obama calls for more steps to curb violence, including gun control


NEW ORLEANS -- President Obama vowed Wednesday night to “leave no stone unturned” in seeking ways to curb the growing challenge of violence in American cities, including reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.

The president offered his most extensive comments in some time on the issue of gun control in a speech to the National Urban League, which came at the end of a four-day trip that began in Colorado, where he met with victims of the movie theater shooting that claimed a dozen lives. After that meeting, he reflected on the lives affected by the shooting, but did not suggest a refreshed attempt to restrict gun ownership.

Obama said Wednesday that every day and a half, the same number of young people die as a result of violent crime as were lost in that Aurora massacre.

“For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans. For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland,” he said. “And when there’s extraordinary heartbreak and tragedy like the one we saw there’s always an outcry immediately after for action. There’s talk of new reforms and there’s talk of new legislation. And too often those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.”

The president said that in the wake of the 2011 assassination attempt against the-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), which resulted in six deaths, his administration has “taken some actions on our own” on guns, “recognizing that it’s not always easy to get things through Congress.” Background checks are “more thorough and more complete,” and federal agencies are “now in the trenches” with local communities and civic groups to find solutions.

Those actions are not enough, he said, particularly when it comes to guns.

Acknowledging sensitivity of the issue, he said he nonetheless believes that even gun owners would agree “that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of children.” He offered no specific proposals but referred to background checks to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons, and preventing guns from getting into the hands of the mentally unbalanced. Previous efforts to do the same have been thwarted by political opposition and the reluctance of sympathetic elected officials to take on the National Rifle Assn., among the nation’s most potent lobbying forces.

Obama’s speech to the Urban League otherwise centered on education. He announced the creation of a White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, to boost minority achievement in school to prepare them for college and postgraduate careers.

The initiative, based out of the Department of Education, will “identify evidence-based practices to improve African American students’ achievement in school and college, and to develop a national network of individuals, organizations and communities that will share and implement these practices,” the White House said.

Obama was to head home to Washington on Wednesday for the first time since Sunday, after a trip mainly spent raising money for his reelection campaign.