- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

President Obama said Tuesday that he is not trying “to take everybody’s guns away,” moments after he spoke out in favor of more gun regulations such as expanded background checks and a ban on so-called assault weapons.

“Every time a mass shooting happens, one of the saddest ironies is suddenly the purchase of firearms and ammunition jumps up,” the president said in Chicago. “Folks are scared into thinking that ‘Obama’s going to use this as an excuse to take away our Second Amendment rights.’ Nobody’s doing that.”

Speaking to the annual convention of the International Association of Police Chiefs, Mr. Obama devoted a large portion of his address to enacting more gun regulations.

“We’re talking about common-sense measures to make sure criminals don’t get them, to make sure background checks work, to make sure that we’re protecting ourselves,” he said.

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said the president should enforce existing guns laws and called on Mr. Obama to stop politicizing gun violence.

“He has all the laws he needs to stop the bloodshed now,” Mr. LaPierre said in a video recording. “Under the existing federal gun laws, he could take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more. But he won’t do it, his Justice Department won’t do it, and the media never asks why.”

He said the NRA’s repeated calls for the strongest possible prosecution of federal gun laws “have been met by deafening silence from Washington’s elites.”

“President Obama and Hillary Clinton and other politicians use the carnage to campaign for more gun laws they won’t and don’t enforce,” Mr. LaPierre said.

The president framed the issue partly as a bid to make police safer in the line of duty.

“In states with high gun ownership, police officers are three times more likely to be murdered than in states with low gun ownership,” Mr. Obama said. “You know that more guns on the streets do not make you or your community safer. That’s why the IACP and the overwhelming majority of the American people, Democrat and Republican, believe we should require national criminal background checks for anyone who wants to purchase a gun.”

He added, “That’s why the IACP believes we shouldn’t sell military-style assault weapons to civilians. They don’t need them. They don’t need them to hunt a deer.”

The president also indicated that conservative media are whipping up fear of gun control.

“Please do not — some of you are watching certain television stations or listening to certain radio programs — please do not believe this notion that somehow I’m out to take everybody’s guns away,” he said.

Mr. Obama declared, “I’m going to keep calling on the folks in Congress to change the way they deal with gun safety — and if they don’t, I’m going to keep calling on Americans to change the folks in Congress until they get it right.”

The president hasn’t pressed Congress on gun legislation since 2013, when the administration lost an effort in the Senate to expand background checks on gun purchases. But after mass shootings this year at a church in South Carolina and at a community college in Oregon, Mr. Obama has decided to use his bully pulpit more often on gun violence.

Homicides in Chicago this year have topped 400, ahead of last year’s pace by nearly 20 percent. Last weekend, six people were killed and 28 wounded by gunfire in the city. Chicago police are concerned that illegal firearms are being transported to the city from Indiana, which has less-restrictive gun laws.

The president tried to address critics who point to Chicago’s strict gun laws as proof that more regulations won’t reduce gun violence.

“There are those who criticize any gun safety reforms by pointing to my hometown as an example,” Mr. Obama said. “The problem with that argument … is that 60 percent of guns recovered in crimes [in Chicago] come from out of state. You’ve just got to hop across the border.”

The president, who is calling for a nationwide law to eliminate disparities in the ease of purchase in different jurisdictions, said America’s failure to address gun violence is “a travesty.”

“Thirty-two cops have been shot and killed this year,” he said. “At least a dozen children have been shot and killed this month. About 400,000 Americans have been shot and killed by guns since 9/11. Since 9/11, fewer than 100 Americans have been murdered by terrorists on American soil. Four hundred thousand have been killed by gun violence. That’s like losing the entire population of Cleveland or Minneapolis over the past 14 years.”

The president met with police chiefs just days after speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been critical of law enforcement’s dealings with minorities. He said the movement has raised issues of police brutality and racial bias in law enforcement that must be addressed.

But in his speech to the police chiefs, Mr. Obama said that “too often, law enforcement gets scapegoated” for societal problems that police cannot solve.

The president said the nation needs to “invest in more opportunity, and … try to stop more crime before it starts.”

“Let’s go after the racial disparities at the root,” Mr. Obama said. “Getting a teenager a job for the summer may cost some money, but it costs a fraction of what it will cost to lock him up for 15 years. … This is not some bleeding-heart attitude here.”

Referring to minorities killed by white police officers last year in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere, Mr. Obama said that “there is a long history here in this country.”

“It’s not something that any individual person here is responsible for, but we all have a responsibility to do something about it because it’s part of our legacy,” he told the law enforcement officials. “Problems of racial justice or injustice have been running themes throughout this country’s history, in every institution.”

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