Obama on Gun Violence Measures: 'This Is Common Sense'

The president discusses actions being taken and legislation he will propose to stem gun violence.
28:19 | 01/16/13

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Transcript for Obama on Gun Violence Measures: 'This Is Common Sense'
This is -- EBC news special report. And they're good afternoon to you I'm Diane Sawyer with George Stephanopoulos of ABC news headquarters in new York and we're which you so that you can hear the president announced his plan. To curb gun violence in America 33 days. After the children and teachers were gunned down at the elementary school in new town the White House. Acting with record speed for washing -- but so has the gun lobby promising a hard fought fight. That's right the president expected to lay out some of the most wide reaching gun control measures since the 1960s after president Kennedy's assassination. A mix of legislative and executive action including expanding background checks. Banning assault weapons and large ammunition clips and then as you suggested the NRA signaling overnight how big a fight this is going to be. With a very tough very personal ad that even invoke the presence children is in the president's children are protected by armed guards -- -- Every other child in America and there will be children with the president when he makes this announcement children who -- him with their ideas on curbing gun violence let's go to ABC's White House correspondent Jonathan Karl standing by in the room John. And Diane white house Press Secretary Jay Carney has just responded -- that NRA ad calling it repugnant and cowardly. The thing to watch for here are the executive actions 23 separate executive actions of the president will outline important because it's -- to -- hard to pass anything in congress. And the president. Out of the -- -- within the vice president who headed the task force. Please please be seated thank -- Before us. Before begin today in the media. Say the families of the innocents who were murdered 33 days ago. Our heart our heart goes -- -- you. And you show incredible courage incredible courage being here in the -- -- them do everything. In our power to. Honor the memory of your children and wives with the work we take -- today. It's been 33 days since the nation's heart was broken by the horrific and senseless violence that took place at sandy -- elementary school. Twenty. Twenty beautiful first graders gunned down place that's supposed to be -- second sanctuary. 66. Members of the staff killed. Trying to save those children. It's literally been hard for the nation to comprehend. -- to the nation to -- And I know for the families who are here. Time is not measured in days. For this measured in minutes. And seconds. Since you receive that news. Another minute without your daughter. And -- minute. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- I want to personally thank. -- and McDonnell who lost -- beautiful daughter grace. In the other parents who I had a chance to speak to -- Four. For their suggestions and four again just further. The courage of all of you to. To be here. I admire. I admired Greece. And Syria resolved the all show. And I must say I've been deeply affected by your faith is well. And prison -- -- to try to match to resolve you've demonstrated. -- can know for certain if this senseless act could have been prevented. We all know we have a moral obligation moral obligation to everything and our power to diminish the prospect. That something previous could happen again. As the president knows I've worked in this field. A long time in the United States senate. Having chaired a committee that had jurisdiction over these issues of guns and crime. And having drafted -- first. Gun violence legislation. The last gun violence successes. And -- no illusions about were up against what we're up against her how hard the task is in front of us but I also. Have. Never seen the nation's conscience so shaken. By what happened -- sandy hook the world which changed. And is demanding action. It's in this context the president asked me to put together along with cabinet members a set of recommendations about how we should proceed. To meet that moral obligation we have toward that end. The cabinet members and I sat down with 229. Groups. Such as individuals represented groups. 229. Groups from law enforcement agencies to public health officials to gun officials to -- advocacy groups. Two. Two sportsmen and hunters and religious leaders. And I've spoken with members of congress from both sides of the aisle have extensive conversation with mayors and governors and county officials from the recommendations we provide to the president on Monday. Call for executive -- she could sign legislation he could call for. And long term research -- should be undertaken there based on the emerging consensus we heard from all the groups with whom we spoke including. Some of you who were victims of this god awful. -- Ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands as well as ways to take conference of action to prevent violence in the first place. We should do as much as we can as quickly as you can we cannot let the perfect be the enemy -- -- good -- Some of what you'll hear from the president will happen immediately some we'll take some time. But we have begun and we are starting here today and we resolved to continue this fight during the meetings that we held. We met with a young man -- here today I think Colin Goddard is here worry -- -- was one of the survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre he was in the classroom. He calls himself one of the lucky seven. And and he'll tell you he was shot four times on that day and he has three bullets are still -- side. -- when I ask Colin about what he thought we should be doing he said that he said I'm not here because of what happened to -- I'm here because of what happened to me keeps happening to other people. And we have to do something about it. -- -- We will Colin I probably issue we -- This is our intention. We must do we can now. There's no person who is more committed. To -- On this moral obligation we have and the president of the United States of America -- gentlemen president Barack Obama. You thank. You thank. You -- month. -- -- -- -- good afternoon everybody. What -- begin by thanking. Are vice president Joseph but. For your dedication -- to this issue for bringing so many different voices to the table. Because while reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge. Protecting our children from harm. Shouldn't be a -- Over the month since the tragedy in Newtown. We've heard from so many and obviously none. Have affected us more than the fairways. Of those gorgeous children. And their teachers guardians who. Who were lost and and so we're grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here and recognizing that we honor their memories in part by doing everything we can't prevent this from happening again. -- we also heard from some of its unexpected people in particular -- start getting a lot of letters from kids. Four murdered -- grant -- Julius stokes. In -- ER and to -- good. They're pretty representative of some -- messages that I got these are some pretty Smart letters from. Some pretty Smart young people. -- up a third grader -- is an issue. Hit a road. I feel terrible for the parents who lost their children. I love my country. And I want everybody to be happy and safe. And then grabs. -- -- -- -- -- said I think there should be some changes. We should learn from what happened that sandy hook -- I feel really bad. And then Julius -- -- -- -- I'm not scared for my safety I'm scared for others. I have four Brothers and sisters and I know I would not be able to bear the thought. Of losing it. This -- Is what they're thinking about. And so what. We should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for that. And shield them from part. And give them the tools they need to grow up. And do everything that -- -- capable of going not just pursue their own dreams but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society. Keeping our children -- This is how. We will be judged. And their voices. Should compel us to change. That's why last month I asked -- to lead an effort along with -- members of my cabinet. -- come up with some concrete steps we can take right now. To keep our children safe. To help prevent mass shootings. To reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country. And we can't put this off any longer. Just last Thursday as TV networks were covering one of Joe's meetings. On this topic. News broke of another school shooting this one in California. In the month. -- morning precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at sandy hook elementary. More than 900. Of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of ago. 900. In the past month. And every day we wait. Number will keep -- So I'm putting forward. A specific set of proposals. Based on the work of -- task force. And in the days ahead I'm tend to use whatever -- this office holds. To make them real. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent. Every senseless act of violence completely. No piece of legislation that will. Prevent. Every tragedy every act of evil. If there was even one thing we can do. To reduce this -- If there's even one life that can be saved. We've got an obligation to try. The -- to do my part. As soon as I'm finished speaking here. -- sort of bad -- -- signed a directive giving law enforcement schools mental health professionals and the public health community. Some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence. We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening. The background check system. We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness sports. We will make sure mental health professionals no other options for reporting threats of violence. Even as we acknowledge that someone where -- mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrators. And -- year after year. Those who opposed even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research. Into the causes of gun violence I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study. The best ways to reduce. And congress should fund research. Into the effects that violent video games have on young minds. We don't benefit from ignorance. We don't benefit from not knowing. The science. Of this -- epidemic of violence. Are these are few of the 23 executive actions that I'm announcing today but as important as these steps are. They are in no way a substitute. For action from members of congress. To make a real and lasting difference. Congress too must act. And congress must acts -- I'm calling on congress to pass some very specific proposals. Right away. First it's time for congress to acquire a universal background check for anyone trying to buy -- -- The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks and over the last fourteen years that's kept one point five million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. But it's hard to enforce that law when as many as 40% of all gun purchases. Are conducted. Without a background check. That's not safe. Let's not Smart. Its not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers. If you want to buy a -- whether it's from a licensed dealer or a private seller you should at least have to show you are not a felon. -- somebody legally. Prohibited from buying one. This common sense. An overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks including more than 70%. Of the national rifle association's members according to once -- So there's no reason we can't do this. Second. Congress should restore ban on military style assault weapons. And a ten round limit for magazines. The type of assault rifle used in a -- for example when paired with -- high capacity magazines has one purpose. To pump out as many bullets as possible as quickly as possible. To do as much damage. Using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage. And that's what allowed the gunman in Aurora to shoot seventy. People. Seventy people killing twelve. In a matter -- minutes. Weapons design from the fear of war. Have no place in a movie theater. A majority of Americans agree with a -- And by the way so did Ronald Reagan. One of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment who wrote to congress in 1994. Urging that this is Ronald Reagan speak. Urging them to listen to the American public into the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military style assault weapons. And finally congress needs to help rather than hinder law enforcement is it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps. -- -- -- -- Since congress has -- confirmed director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in six years. They should confirm. Todd Jones who will be. Who has been acting and I will be nominating for the post. And at a time when budget cuts are forcing many communities to reduce their police force. We should put more cops back on the job and back on our streets. -- -- -- -- -- Like most Americans I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. Our respect our strong tradition of gun ownership. And the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible law abiding gun owners in America who cherish the right to bear arms for hunting or sport. Or protection. Or collection. I also believe most -- owners agree. That we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping. And irresponsible law breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. There would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in new -- That's what these reforms are designed to do their common sense measures. They have the support of the majority of the American people. And yet that doesn't mean any of this is going to be easy to enact or implement. The for were -- have universal background checks. The ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines never would have been allowed to expire. More of our fellow Americans. Might still be a -- celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and graduate -- This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a -- -- -- all out assault on liberty. -- because that's true. But because. -- want to gin up fear or higher ratings news or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes they'll do everything -- camp. The block any common sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever. The only way we will be able to change is if their audience their constituents. Their membership. Says this time must be different. At this time. We must do something to protect our communities and markets. I won't put. Everything I've got into this and so we'll show. But I tell you. The only way we can change. That the American people demand. And by the way that doesn't just mean. From certain parts of the country. We're gonna need voices. In those areas -- those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong. To speak up and to say this is important. It can't just be the usual suspects. We have to examine ourselves and our hearts. And -- ourselves what is important. This will not happen unless the American people demand. Parents and teachers police officers and pastors. Hunters and sportsmen. -- responsible gun owners if Americans of every background stand up and say. Enough. We suffer too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continued. Then change -- Change will -- That's what it's gonna take. The on the letter that. Julia wrote me she said. I know that laws have to be passed by congress. But I beg you to try very our. Julie I will try very hard. But she's right. Most important changes we can make depend on congressional action. They need to for bring these proposals operate vote. And the American people need to make sure that they do. Get them on record. -- member of congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns on the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on -- -- style assault weapons and high capacity magazines. And if they say no. Asked them why not. Ask them what's more important. Doing whatever it takes to get. Eight grade from the gun lobby that -- their campaigns or. Giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade. This -- the land of the free and it always will be. As Americans we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away difference. What we've also long recognized. As our founders recognized that we have rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to -- our lives as we will -- an obligation. To allow others to do the -- We don't live in isolation. We live in a society. A government of and by and for the people. We are responsible for each up. -- the right to worship freely and safely that Wright was denied to seeks in Oak Creek Wisconsin. The right to assemble piece of what. That Wright was denied shoppers. Plaque from a -- and moviegoers and Aurora Colorado. That most fundamental set of rights to life liberty in the pursuit of happiness fundamental rights that. There were denied to college students of Virginia -- And high school students a column by an elementary school students in new -- And kids on street corners in Chicago. On too frequent a basis to a tolerate. All the families who never imagined. -- lose a loved one to a bullet. Those rights are at stake. Were responsible. And when I visit Newtown last month I spent some private time what many of the families who lost. The children that day and one was the family of -- McDonnell. Racist parents -- -- -- was seven years old when she was struck down. -- -- Caring. Shortfall old -- I'm told she -- -- She loved the beach. She dreamed of becoming a pain -- And so just before -- left. Chris. Her father. Gave me -- -- repayments. And I hung in in my -- it's starting just off the Oval Office. And every time I look -- that painting I think backwards. I think about the life that she lived. And the life that way ahead of her. And most of all I think about how when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us we must act now. Progress. For the 2.5 other innocent children and devoted educators. Who had so much left to give. For the men and women in big cities and small towns -- fall victim to senseless violence each and every day. For all the Americans were counting on us. To keep them safe from -- Let's do the right thank. Let's do the right thing for them. And for this country that we love so much. Thank you. It's. -- Jordan. Orders on gun violence in America I think it is summed up from one sentence -- said George. I will put everything I've got. Into this whatever -- this office holds the president said 23 executive actions including some legislative proposals as well the president. Wants more research and -- gun violence who wants to strengthen the background check system. He wants researching the violent video games as well but also legislative action a ban on military style assault weapons a ban on high capacity ammunition clips. And he's -- consensus. American agreement on a lot of these issues let's go to John Karl -- again right there in that room John. -- Diane community. Yes I do. What what was interest thing here was the direct challenge at the National Rifle Association and when the president said. What is more important an a rating from the gun lobby to the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your first grader -- safe when you drop them off at school. The president is going up against a congress -- the overwhelming majority have a ratings from the NRA 288 members of congress. And -- any prayer of getting any of this past -- -- need at least some of them to come around and support. -- is asking president also direct challenge. President also wrapping himself in the constitution saying Second Amendment gun rights must be measured against the right to live freely assemble freely and worship -- Right that they do not defy common sense the constitutional rights and again we're so glad to have you joining us Jonathan Karl we'll be back with us tonight on world news we'll have a full recap of this day and also be tackling the question about the NRA the gun lobby and how you feel. About they're introducing the president's children into this debate. That's just some of what we will bring you tonight on world news we will see you then and until then we hope you have a good afternoon. Okay. This has been a special. BC news.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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