back to top

Obama Begs Nation Not To Let Mass Shootings “Become The New Normal”

Gun violence can be prevented, the president says, acknowledging the people to stop it probably won’t be in Congress.

Posted on

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during a memorial service for the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting at Marine Barracks Washington, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Washington. A gunman killed 12 people in the Navy Yard on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, before being fatally shot in a gun battle with law enforcement.

WASHINGTON — After five speeches after mass shootings during his term in office, President Obama said Sunday he's worried Americans are coming to believe that death at the hands of mass shooters are a fact of life.

In an impassioned speech on gun violence at the memorial for victims of Monday's mass shooting at a Naval facility here, Obama both admitted it's unlikely much will happen after the Navy Yard shooting, but urged Americans not to let that fact turn them into cynics.

"These families have endured a shattering tragedy. It ought to be a shock to all of us as a nation and as a people. It ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation. It's what happened to other countries when they experienced similar tragedies," Obama said, referring to legislative efforts mounted in the United Kingdom and Australia after mass shootings. "Yet here in the United States after the round-the-clock coverage on cable news, after the heartbreaking interviews with families, after all the speeches and all the punditry and all the commentary, nothing happens."

Alongside the anguish of these American families, alongside the accumulated outrage so many of us feel, sometimes I fear there's a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is. That this is somehow the new normal," Obama said. "We can't accept this."

The president, who pushed the Capitol into a ultimately unsuccessful legislative fight over expanded background checks and other gun control measures after the shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school last year, said the solution to reducing gun violence is clear, but the path toward implementing it is not.

"We Americans are not an inherently more violent people than folks in other countries. We're not inherently more prone to mental health problems," Obama said. "What's different in America is that it's easy to get your hand on a gun. A lot of us know this."

Gun control will come, Obama said, but only if Americans continue to believe in it. It seemed clear from the speech that Obama doubted another legislative fight on guns was coming to Capitol Hill anytime soon.

"The politics are difficult, as we saw again this spring." Obama said. "And that's somewhere where the resignation comes in, a sense that our politics are frozen and that nothing will change. I cannot accept that."

"It may not happen tomorrow, it may not happen next week, it may not happen next month, but it will happen, because it's the change that we need," Obama said. "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 has come and that's from the American people."

Evan McMorris-Santoro is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News.

Contact Evan McMorris-Santoro at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.