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Soul searching needed on gun control: Obama

June 11, 2014 08:44 IST

United States President Barack Obama has called for national "soul searching" over gun violence and expressed his "frustration" over gun lobby not letting him push through a legislation to put a stop to rampant shooting sprees.

"The country has to do some soul-searching about this. This is becoming the norm. And we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.

"I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions. But right now, it's not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress. And we should be ashamed of that," Obama said.

"My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of, you know, people who, you know, can do just unbelievable damage," he said.

"The United States is the only developed country on Earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week. There's no place else like this," Obama said at the White House, hours after a gunman shot and killed a student at an Oregon High School in the latest incident.

"... our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There's no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this," he said.

"We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights. But the idea that, for example, we couldn't even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you're going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can't just walk up to a store and buy a semi-automatic weapon? It makes no sense," said the US President.

Obama said the only thing that's going to change is public opinion.

"If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change. I've initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules and the laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don't have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to," he said.

"And most members of Congress -- and I have to say to some degree this is bipartisan -- are terrified of the NRA (National Rifle Association). The combination of, you know, the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes in local elections and congressional elections. And so if you're running for office right now, that's where you feel the heat," he said.

"And people on the other side may be generally favourable towards things like background checks and other common-sense rules, but they're not as motivated, so that doesn't end up being the issue that a lot of you vote on," he said.

"And until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say, 'enough; this isnot acceptable; this is not normal; this isn't, sort of, the price we should be paying for our freedom; ... until that happens, sadly, not much is going to change," Obama said.

Image: Todd Engle (C) and Mary Rose Engle (R) hold weapons as they pose for a photograph with a man dressed as Santa Claus at the Scottsdale Gun Club in Scottsdale, Arizona Photographs: Joshua Lott /Reuters

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