The day a gunman killed 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., was the “worst day of my presidency,” President Obama said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, reaffirming his intention to address the issues of gun control in his second term.
“Anybody who was up in Newtown, who talked to the parents, who talked to the families understands that something fundamental in America has to change,” Obama said. “And all of us have to do some soul searching, including me as president, that we allow a situation in which 20 precious small children are getting gunned down in a classroom.”
Obama, who established a task force led by Vice President Biden to offer recommendations for how to best curb gun violence, said he would like to move something through Congress within a year.
While the task force recommendations have yet to be issued, Obama has supported and continues to support background checks and bans on assault rifles and high-capacity clips.
He acknowledged the political difficulty of efforts that are likely to meet opposition from gun rights groups. But he suggested that the horror of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary could unite a majority in action.
“Will there be resistance? Absolutely there will be resistance,” Obama said. “And the question then becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away. It certainly won’t feel like that to me. This is something that . . . that was the worst day of my presidency. And it’s not something that I want to see repeated.”
Likewise, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asked about how gun-control measures might be viewed in rural America, said that the shooting leaves the national debate on gun control in a “different situation” from the past.
Vilsack said the debate must recognize that people “do hunt and that that’s important to them — 38 percent of America either hunts or fishes. So you know, it’s a big part of the population.”
But with the Connecticut shooting, the dynamics of the debate may have changed, he said.
“It’s a much deeper conversation,” Vilsack said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And it’s a good one to have for this country. . . . It’s potentially a unifying conversation. The problem is that these conversations are always couched in the terms of dividing us. This could be a unifying conversation, and Lord knows we need to be unified.”
Obama also pushed back against a proposal the National Rifle Association put forth after the mass shooting — that armed guards be placed in schools.
“I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools. And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem,” Obama said.