Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Sunday memorialized the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting by urging Americans not to give up on a transformation in gun laws that he argued are to blame for an epidemic of violence.
Obama said when such senseless deaths strike in America, "it ought to be a shock to all of us, it ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation."
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during a memorial service for victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting at the Marine Barracks September 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Getty Images)
Obama issued a call to action on gun control measures that failed to pass earlier this year and show no new momentum in the wake of last week's rampage at a military installation just blocks from the Capitol.
"Our tears are not enough," Obama told thousands gathered to mourn at the Marine Barracks. "Our words and our prayers are not enough. If we really want to honor these 12 men and women, if we really want to be a country where we can go to work and go to school and walk our streets free from senseless violence without so many lives being stolen by a bullet from a gun, then we're going to have to change."
But, Obama said, "nothing happens. Alongside the anguish of these American families, alongside the accumulated outrage so many of us feel, sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal. We cannot accept this. As Americans bound in grief and love, we must insist here today there is nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work."
He said no other advanced nation endures the kind of gun violence seen in the United States, and blamed mass shootings in America on laws that fail "to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people."
"What's different in America is it's easy to get your hands on a gun," he said. He acknowledged "the politics are difficult," a lesson he learned after failing to get expanded background checks for gun buyers through the Democratic-controlled Senate this spring. Obama had proposed the measure after the shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 20 first-graders and six staff.
"And that's sometimes where the resignation comes from: the sense that our politics are frozen and that nothing will change. Well, I cannot accept that," 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 ever has come, and that's from the American people."
U.S. President Barack Obama comforts families of the victims at a memorial for the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting September 22, 2013 at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Getty Images)
Obama said it's clear from the Navy Yard shooting that the country needs to do a better job to secure its military facilities and improve mental health services, but also address gun laws.
"I do not accept that we cannot find a common-sense way to preserve our traditions, including our basic Second Amendment freedoms and the rights of law-abiding gun owners while at the same time reducing the gun violence that unleashes so much mayhem on a regular basis," Obama said. "It may not happen tomorrow and it may not happen this week, it may not happen next month. But it will happen because it is the change that we need. And it's a change overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Americans."
Earlier Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said "the problem is there weren't enough good guys with guns" at the Navy Yard.
Here's a clip of a portion of Obama's remarks at Sunday's memorial, via YouTube: