Obama prods for activism during Navy Yard memorial
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Sunday memorialized the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting by urging Americans not to give up on a transformation in gun laws that he argued are to blame for an epidemic of violence. “There is nothing inevitable about it — it comes about because of decisions we make or fail to make,” Obama said.
Obama issued a call to action on gun control measures that failed to pass this year and show no new momentum as a result of last week's rampage at a military installation blocks from the Capitol.
“Our tears are not enough,” Obama told thousands gathered to mourn at the Marine Barracks. “Our words and our prayers are not enough. If we really want to honor these 12 men and women, if we really want to be a country where we can go to work and go to school and walk our streets free from senseless violence without so many lives being stolen by a bullet from a gun, then we're going to have to change.”
Obama said that when such senseless deaths strike in America, “it ought to be a shock to all of us, it ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation.”
But, Obama said, “nothing happens. Alongside the anguish of these American families, alongside the accumulated outrage so many of us feel, sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal. We cannot accept this.”
He said no other advanced nation endures the kind of gun violence seen in the United States, and he blamed mass shootings in America on laws that fail “to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people.”
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre rejected any call for gun control. “The problem is there weren't enough good guys with guns,” LaPierre said on NBC's “Meet the Press.”
The nation's mental health system is “in complete breakdown,” resulting in not enough of the mentally ill being committed to psychiatric hospitals, LaPierre said.
“If we leave these homicidal maniacs on the street ... they're going to kill,” he said. “They need to be committed is what they need to be. If they are committed, they're not at the Naval Yard.”
Aaron Alexis, the IT contractor who killed the 12, had a history of violent outbursts, had told police he was hearing voices and was in the early stages of being treated by the Veterans Affairs Department for mental problems.
Doctors who treated Alexis should have carried out “a complete mental health status exam,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told CBS' “Face the Nation.”
“He bought a gun in spite of the fact that at several interchanges people were aware of his psychosis.”