Obama: Let’s try to stop ‘epidemic of gun violence’

Christi Parsons
Tribune Washington Bureau

Honolulu — President Barack Obama issued a New Year’s Day call to Americans to help him fight an “epidemic of gun violence” in the U.S., signaling it as a top priority as he considers whether to impose new gun-control measures under existing federal law.

Obama said he will meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday to consider what actions he can take to help reduce gun violence, an issue her agency has been studying at the president’s direction last fall.

In his weekly radio address released Friday, Obama urged Americans to stand with him if they share his belief that the Second Amendment right to bear arms also leaves room for restrictions on gun ownership by “an irresponsible, dangerous few.”

“Change, as always, is going to take all of us,” Obama said. “The gun lobby is loud and well-organized in its defense of effortlessly available guns for anyone.”

“The rest of us are going to have to be just as passionate and well-organized in our defense of our kids,” he said.

Obama’s past efforts to pass tough new gun laws, including a big push in 2013, have failed despite repeated mass shootings.

After the October massacre at a community college in Roseburg, Ore., Obama ordered the Justice Department to look into how he might impose tougher restrictions by executive authority. Lawyers and policy advisers are studying how he could interpret existing law or strengthen regulations to require more background checks to weed out violent felons and mentally ill people who try to buy guns.

Critics have promised to challenge Obama if he takes administrative action. He can’t take unilateral steps that Congress has specifically rejected, gun rights activists argue.

Obama’s emphasis on the subject in his first public statement of his final year in office suggests he is open to taking the boldest steps he can.

Aides also say they believe he is intent on acting.

“The president has made clear he’s not satisfied with where we are,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

Obama made that much clear Friday. All across America, he said, survivors of gun victims mark horrible anniversaries of loss every day.

“We know that we can’t stop every act of violence,” Obama said. “But what if we tried to stop even one?”