Obama on Navy Yard Shooting Tragedy: 'Once More We Ask Why'

President Obama addresses family of Navy Yard shooting victims at memorial.
19:55 | 09/22/13

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Transcript for Obama on Navy Yard Shooting Tragedy: 'Once More We Ask Why'
Secretary -- don't. -- -- Admirals. -- Burton. -- artists. Mayor gray. Leaders from across this city. And armed forces. To all the outstanding first responders. And most of all. The -- Whose hearts have been -- We cannot begin to comprehend or -- loss. We know it. No -- us we -- today are equal. To the magnitude. The depths. Of that loss. We come together as a grateful nation. To honor your loved ones. Agree -- you. And offer it as best we can. Some solace. And some comfort. On the night that we lost. Martin Luther King Jr. to a gunman's bullet. Robert Kennedy stood. Before. A stunned and angry crowd in Indianapolis. And he broke. The terrible -- And in the anguish of that moment you turn. To the words of ancient Greek Paul. -- -- Even in our sleep. Pain. Which we cannot forget. Falls drop by drop upon the heart. Until in our own despair. Against our will. Comes wisdom through the awful grace of god. Pain. Which cannot forget. Drop by drop. On the heart. The tragedy. And the -- that brings us here today is extraordinary. This unique. The lives there were taken from us -- unity. The memories. Their loved ones Cary. -- me and they will -- -- them and indoor. Long after of the news cameras are gone. But part of what wears on. As well is. The sense that. This is happen before. -- -- Wear one wears on us what what troubles us so deeply as we gather here today is. How this senseless. Violence that took place in the navy yard echoes another recent tragedies. As president I have no reason -- five. American communities ripped apart by mass violence. -- -- -- Aurora. Sandy hook. And now. The Washington navy -- And these mass shootings -- against the backdrop. Of daily tragedies. -- epidemic of gun violence terrorists. Apart communities across America. From the streets of Chicago. To neighborhood office not far from here. And so once again we remember our fellow Americans. We're just going about their day. Doing their jobs. Doing what they loved in this case the unheralded work -- that keeps our country strong and our navy. The finest police in the world these patriots. Doing. Their work that they were so proud. And have now been taken away from us by unspeakable violence. Once more we come together. To mourn the lives of beauty and the -- The wonderful families who chairs. Once more. We pay tribute to all who rushed toward the danger. Who risked their lives so others might live and -- in our prayers today including officer Scott Williams. Once more. Our hearts are broken. Once more. We ask why. Once more we -- strength. And wisdom. Through God's grace. You and their families. This may be family. Are still in the early hour out of your great. And I'm here today to say that there is nothing routine about this tragedy. -- nothing routine about your loss. -- loved ones will not be forgotten. -- door in the hearts of the American people in the hearts of the navy. But they helped to keep strong. And the hearts of their coworkers and their friends. And their neighbors. I want them to know how she live Jessica -- he said of her mother care. She is not a number. Or some statistic. None of these twelve. Fellow Americans are statistics. Today I want every American to see how these men and women left. May have never met them but you know them they're your neighbors. Like Arthur Daniels. There on the -- and polishing his white Crown Victoria. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Q is -- friendly face but the -- So if -- whether. Unforgettable gold hair who took a second job and Wal-Mart because she said she just loved working with people. She was the diehard fan you set next to of the game. Get regarding loved her popular -- Season ticket holder for 25 years. There -- the volunteers who -- your community better. Frank -- are giving dictionaries to every third grader and is counting. Marty -- -- beating the children's Bible study of church. They lived the American dream. -- -- -- -- -- Who left everything he -- and India for this land of opportunity and raised. A wonderful family and dedicated himself to the United States navy. They were proud veterans. -- Gerald reed who wore the army uniform for more than 25 years. Michael Arnold. Became one of the navy's leading architects. A former colleagues said nobody knew those ships like him. There were dedicated fathers. -- -- -- Torturing his daughter's softball teams. Joining FaceBook just keep up what -- girls. One of whom said he was always -- cool man. They were loving mothers. Like Mary Frances night. Devoted to her daughter's. And would just recently watched what joy -- or older daughter got married. There were doting grandparents. Like John Johnson. Always smiling giving bear -- -- ten grandchildren. And who would have welcomed his eleventh grandchild this -- These are not statistics. They're the lives that have been taken from us. This is how -- -- single act of violence can -- My husband has lost his wife. Wives have lost their husbands. Sons and daughters lost their moms -- dads. Little children have lost their records. Hundreds of our communities lost a neighborhood. And thousands here have lost. A friend. Hasn't been mentioned for one -- and the Daniels family. -- wars are ripped open again. Bacillus lost Arthur her husband of thirty years only a few years ago. This mayor ray indicated another shooting took the life of their son just fourteen years old. I can't believe this is happening again -- us. This family's been in door to shattering tragedy. It ought to be a shock to all of us. As a nation and as -- it ought to -- us. That ought to lead to some sort of transformation. That's what happened and other countries when -- experienced similar tragedies. In the United Kingdom. In Australia. We're just a single mass shooting occurred in those countries they understood that there was nothing ordinary about this kind of carnage. They endured great heartbreak but they also mobilized and they changed. And mass shooting this. Became. The great rarity. And yet here in the United States. After the -- -- clock coverage on cable news. After her. The heart breaking interviews with fans. After all the speeches and all the punditry and all the commentary it. Nothing happens. Alongside their -- these American families. Alongside the accumulated -- so many of us feel. Sometimes. I fear there's a creeping resignation. That these tragedies are just some have a way this. That this is somehow. The new normal. We can't accept this. As Americans -- in grief and love. We who we must insist here today there's nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work. There's nothing normal about our children being gunned down in their classrooms. There's nothing normal about children dying in our streets from stray bullets. No other advance nation indoors this kind of violence. Not. Here in America the murder rate is three times what it is and other developed nations. The murder rate with guns is ten times what it is and other developed nations. And there's nothing inevitable about it. It comes about because of decisions we make or failed to make. And it falls on us. To make a difference. And sometimes it takes an unexpected voice to break through. To help remind us what we know to be true. And we heard one of those forces last week doctor Janice were allows this -- -- -- -- Washington Hospital Center treated the wounded. And in the midst of whatever briefings. She spoke with heartbreaking on -- as somebody who sees daily and nightly. The awful carnage of so much violence. We are great country she said. But there's something wrong. All these shootings all these victim she said. This is not America. It is a challenge to all of us she said and we have to work together. To get rid of this. And that's the wisdom we should be taken away from this tragedy. And so many others. Not accepting these shootings as an -- -- asking well can we do to prevent them from happening again and again and again. I've said before. We cannot stop. Every act of senseless violence. We cannot know every evil that lurks in troubled minds. But if we can prevent even one tragedy like this. Save even one life spare. Other families -- -- spammers are going through. Surely we've got an obligation to try. It's true that each of the tragedy as I mentioned is different. And in this case is clear we need to do a better job of securing our military facilities. Deciding who gets back to -- through them and as commander in chief. Ordered a review of procedures up and down the chain and I know that secretary Hickel. Is moving aggressively on them. As a society it's clear we've got to do a better job of ensuring that those who need mental health care actually get that. And that in those efforts. We don't -- ties those who need help. Those things are. Clear and we've got to move. To address them. But. We Americans are not an inherently more -- -- people than. Folks in other countries. We're not inherently more prone to mental health problems. The main difference that -- our nation apart. What -- makes us so susceptible to so many mass shootings. Is that we don't do enough we don't take that basic common sense actions. To keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous. What's different Americas. He's a good. Her hands on -- -- And lot of us -- us. But the politics -- difficult. We saw -- this spring and that sometimes where the resignation comes from. The sense that our politics are frozen -- -- -- and we'll -- Want I cannot accept that. I do not accept that we cannot find a common sense way to preserve our traditions including. Our basic Second Amendment freedoms and the rights of law abiding gun owners. All of the same time reducing the gun violence that unleashes so much mayhem on a regular basis. In -- may not happen tomorrow it may not happen next week may not happen next month but it will happen. Because it's the change that we -- And it's change overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Americans. By now though it should be clear that the change we need will not come from Washington. Even when tragedy strikes Washington. Change will come the only way it ever has come. And that's from the American people. So the question now is not whether as Americans. We care and moments of tragedy. Clearly we care. Our hearts -- broken again. We care so deeply about these fans. The question is. We care enough. We care enough to keep standing up for the country that we know is possible even if it's hard. And even if it's politically uncomfortable. Do we care enough. To sustain the passion and the pressure to make our community safer and our country's. Do we care enough. To do everything we can. To spare other families the pain that is -- here today. Our tears are not enough. Are worse. And our prayers. Are not enough. If we really want to honor these twelve men and women. We really want to be a country where we can go to work go to school and walk our streets. Free from senseless violence. That. So many lives being stolen. By a bullet from a gun but we're gonna have to change. -- -- On Monday morning these twelve men and women woke up like they did every day. He left home. And they headed off to work. And -- Reid's wife Kathy said. See you tonight for them. And John Johnson looked -- his wife Judy said what he always that whenever they part of good -- beautiful I love you so much. Even in our sleep pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart. Until in our own despair against our will. Comes wisdom through the awful grace of god. Robert Kennedy understood. What Doctor King understood what all our great leaders -- always understood is that wisdom. Does not come. From tragedy alone. Or from. Some sense of resignation in the fallibility of man wisdom comes through the recognition that tragedies such as this are not inevitable. And that we possess. The ability to act. And to change. And to spare others the -- in the drops upon our hearts. During our brief. What a -- that race. Let us find that wisdom. And in doing so what is truly honor. These twelve. American patriots. May god help close the souls taken from -- Grant them eternal peace. May comfort and watch over -- -- And may god grant us the strength and wisdom. To keep safe. Are United States of America.

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

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