NEW ORLEANS — President Obama promised Wednesday to lead a national discussion about gun control after the deadly mass shootings last week in Colorado, wading into the gun issue more extensively than at any other time in his presidency.
Even this week, White House press secretary Jay Carney indicated that the president was unlikely to push for new gun legislation, citing persistent opposition in Congress. But Obama told the National Urban League here that he believes a lot of gun owners would agree that “AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers,” not civilians on American streets.
The president called the Aurora massacre an “extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy.” But, he added, talk of reforming gun laws after similar mass shootings has too often been “defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.”
Obama’s speech seemed sure to intensify the debate on gun control. The president’s comments were striking because he has generally been cautious on the politically potent issue of firearms — to the point that some prominent politicians and advocates had criticized him, accusing him of barely addressing gun regulations in the immediate aftermath of the massacre in Aurora.