Obama Urges Congress To Act In Wake Of Mass Shooting

By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)

(CBS) A day after 12 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, President Obama said he's done what he can unilaterally to address gun violence and now Congress must do something about it.

"The fact that we do not have a firm enough background check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings," Mr. Obama said in an interview with Telemundo Tuesday. "And, you know, I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings. Everybody expresses understandable horror. We all embrace the families and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with those families right now-- as they're absorbing this incredible loss. And yet we're not willing to take some basic actions that we know would make a difference."

The president said that gun control is one of several agenda items that's been unjustifiably slowed down in Congress.

"This is an example of what we've seen again and again on immigration reform, on gun control, on a common sense budget," he said. "You have a majority of the American people and even a large percentage of Republicans who are ready to move the country forward, and yet we keep on getting blocked."

Monday's shooting occurred just a stone's throw away from the Capitol Building, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that legislation to address gun violence still doesn't have the support to pass in the Senate.

"We're going to move this up as quickly as we can, but we've got to have the votes first. We don't have the votes," he told reporters Tuesday. "I'd like to get them, but we don't have them now."

The push to reform national gun laws stalled in April, when the Senate rejected a bill that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases. Reid said Tuesday that he was willing to consider more that just background checks -- for instance, some lawmakers have focused on boosting support for local mental health resources.

"I would be willing to do that, anything we can do to focus attention on these senseless killings that take place," Reid said. However, he added, "To show how elementary this is -- background checks -- we want to stop people who have mental illness from buying a gun. We want to stop people who are felons from being able to purchase a gun. That's what that's all about."

Some other Democratic gun control advocates in Congress lamented this week that Congress failed to act following last year's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement Monday.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on the Senate floor Tuesday that legislation to keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill is "common sense" to most Americans.

"We can protect the right of law-abiding Americans to use guns in a responsible way for hunting and self-defense, but we have to keep guns out of the hands of those who would misuse them -- felons, the mentally unstable, who can't be trusted to have a firearm," he said. "But today we pause and reflect on the lives lost. I hope the lesson is learned."

While there have been six mass shootings in the past nine months, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that President Obama doesn't accept regular mass shootings as "the new normal."

Carney blamed congressional Republicans for blocking the background check legislation, accusing them of bowing to special interests.

"When you vote against 80 or 90 percent of the American people, when you vote against the majority of your constituents at the behest of a narrow special interest, you are serving that special interest, not your constituents," he said.

Carney acknowledged that a stronger background check system would not have stopped the Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis. However, using that fact to dismiss background check legislation would be a "cop out," he said.

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