President Barack Obama said Congress should be “ashamed” of its failure to strengthen U.S. gun laws, and he blamed lawmakers who are scared of the National Rifle Association’s power.
“Most members of Congress, and to some degree this is bipartisan, are terrified of the NRA,” Obama said today at the White House, hours after the latest school shooting in the U.S.
He called the failure to pass tougher U.S. gun laws following the 2012 shooting deaths of 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, his “greatest disappointment” as president.
Obama spoke after a shooting today in which, law authorities said, a teenager armed with a rifle killed a student and wounded a teacher at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon, before killing himself. Two days earlier, a married couple killed two Las Vegas police officers and a civilian on a shooting spree.
“We’re the only developed country on earth where this happens, and it happens now once a week and it’s a one-day story,” Obama said. “There’s no place else like this.”
The NRA didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.
The group, based in Fairfax, Virginia, says it has more than 4 million individuals as members. The group had 2011 revenue of $219 million, according to NRA tax returns. More than $100 million came from member dues, while $59 million came from the gun industry and other donors.
Obama’s drive to expand background checks for weapons purchases and other measures to address gun violence stalled in Congress last year. The NRA, the nation’s biggest lobby for gun manufacturers and owners, has consistently fought attempts to restrict firearms.
“Right now, it’s not even possible to get the mildest restrictions through Congress and we should be ashamed of that,” Obama said.
The president was responding to a question from David Karp, founder of Yahoo Inc.’s Tumblr service, who interviewed the president for a discussion about student loans.
Senate Democratic leaders have said they won’t bring the background check proposal back for another vote unless Republicans or Democrats who oppose it reconsider their positions.
Second-ranking Senate Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois said today in an interview that, as much as he’d like to see the Senate pass the measure, he had no indication that any positions had changed.
“A very few days go by that we don’t have these killings,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters today after the Oregon shooting. “The man in Las Vegas clearly from what I’ve been able to read was a felon. He couldn’t have bought a gun had we had background checks.”
The White House in January said the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services were proposing changes in regulations to clarify who under U.S. law is prohibited from possessing guns for mental health reasons.
Today, Obama said the blame for gun violence in the U.S. goes beyond people with mental illnesses.
“The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people,” he said. “It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet we kill each other in these mass shootings that are exponentially higher than anywhere else. What’s the difference? The difference is these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses, and that’s sort of par for the course.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org