President Barack Obama launched a rhetorical assault on guns in one of the most gun friendly states in the nation while speaking at a town hall event in Columbia, South Carolina, Friday.
“As long as you can go in some neighborhoods and it is easier for you to buy a firearm than it is for you to buy a book, there are neighborhoods where it is easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable, as long as that’s the case, we’re going to continue to see unnecessary violence,” Obama said in a response to a question at the town hall meeting at Benedict College.
Obama vented his frustration that the administration-backed proposal on expanding background checks in 2013 did not pass Congress. It died in the Democratically-controlled Senate. Obama invoked the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting where 20 children were murdered.
“I thought after what happened at Sandy Hook would make us think about it,” Obama said. “You would have thought that’s got to be enough of a motivator. But we couldn’t get it done.”
Obama said without legislation at the state and federal level, “it is difficult to reduce the availability of guns.” In the absence of a bill from Congress, he said, “We’ve tried to get as much done administratively.”
“Our homicide rates are so much higher than other industrialized countries,” he added, and blamed the accessibility to guns for that. Though he offered an obligatory statement about wanting to protecting the Second Amendment. “That’s important. That’s part of who we are.”
He further mocked some gun rights activists.
“In some places it goes the opposite direction. People say we should have firearms in kindergarten and have machine guns in bars. You think I’m exaggerating,” Obama said. “You look at these laws that come up. Despite those frustrations, I would say it is still within our control to reduce the incidence of handguns violence by making sure your young people understand that that is not a sign of strength.”